Divorce in South Carolina – SC Divorce Laws

As divorce lawyers in Charleston, South Carolina, we have decades of combined experience in family law. If you are getting a divorce in South Carolina, then this article will help you understand SC divorce laws and get you started down the right path if you are going through a separation or a divorce in our state.

What are the Legal Grounds for a Divorce in South Carolina?

If you are filing for divorce in South Carolina, there are five (5) legal grounds which are adultery, habitual drug or alcohol use, physical abuse,  desertion for one year, and one year’s continuous separation (a no-fault divorce in South Carolina). Click here to read our detailed explanation of the grounds for divorce in South Carolina.

How is Property Divided in a South Carolina Divorce?

In a South Carolina divorce, the family court divides marital property between the spouses. Generally speaking, marital property is any property that the spouses acquired during the marriage. Common examples of marital property include:

  • Real estate
  • Vehicles, boats, trailers, etc.
  • Household contents such as furniture, TV’s, etc.
  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Investment accounts

If a spouse owned property before getting married, such as a house, but shared that property during the marriage, then the family court may consider that property as marital. Click here to read our detailed explanation of the division of marital property in a South Carolina divorce.

Is South Carolina a 50-50 State for Divorce?

South Carolina is not a community property state. However, in a long-term marriage, the court is likely to equally divide marital property. As for what qualifies as a long-term marriage, there is no precise number of years under our laws. Years ago, parties tended to stay married longer, so a family court judge in those days might consider anything under 15 or 20 years a shorter-term marriage. These days, parties tend to get divorced more often, so it is possible that a family court judge may consider a ten-year marriage as long-term. In the end, it depends on the discretion of the court as to what is considered a long-term marriage.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in South Carolina?

Uncontested divorces usually involve a one-year period of separation before the parties can file for a divorce. After the one-year waiting period, if the spouses agree on all the issues in their divorce such as child custody, support, and the division of property, then the divorce process can be as short as two to three months. Click here to read our detailed explanation of how long it takes to divorce in South Carolina.

How Long Do You Have to be Separated in South Carolina to Get a Divorce?

In South Carolina, if you are seeking a no fault divorce in South Carolina, then you must be separated for a least one year. However, if you are seeking a divorce on fault grounds such as adultery or physical abuse, South Carolina law does not require you to be separated for any length of time before you file for a divorce. Click here to read our detailed explanation about how to file for divorce in South Carolina and the process of divorce in South Carolina.

What is the Cost of Divorce in SC?

In South Carolina, the cost of a divorce depends on the complexity of your divorce. The filing fee is $150.00. However, there can be many more costs such as service of process fees, guardian ad litem fees in contested custody cases, the cost of court-ordered parental evaluations, the cost of expert witnesses such as accountants, and legal fees to name a few. As for the cost of legal fees, click here to read our detailed article on how to reduce your legal fees in your divorce.

Is South Carolina an Alimony State?

A spouse may receive alimony in South Carolina. The family court has discretion in awarding a spouse alimony after considering a list of factors including:

  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The age of the parties at the time of marriage and at the time of divorce,
  • Each spouse’s physical and emotional condition,
  • Each spouse’s educational background,
  • Whether either spouse needs additional training or education to achieve their income potential
  • Each spouse’s earning potential and work history,
  • The couple’s standard of living during the marriage,
  • The current and reasonably anticipated incomes of each spouse,
  • The current and reasonably anticipated expenses of each spouse,
  • The marital and nonmarital property owned by each spouse,
  • Which spouse has custody of the children
  • Marital misconduct that affected the parties’ economic circumstances contributed to the breakup of the marriage,
  • Tax consequences for the type of alimony awarded,
  • Any other support obligations that either spouse has, and
  • Any other factors that the court thinks are relevant.

Click here to read our detailed explanation regarding the types of alimony in South Carolina and how the family court calculates alimony.

Can You Date While You Are Separated in SC?

In South Carolina, there is no such thing as a “legal separation.” Until a judge finalizes your divorce, you remain legally married to your spouse. Engaging in romantic or intimate relationships while still married could be interpreted as adultery. This may negatively affect you, especially when it comes to the division of your assets, given that the court takes such matters into consideration. Furthermore, if you hope to receive spousal support or alimony, any indication that you’re involved with someone or having intimate relations during your marriage could prevent you from obtaining such support. Click here to read our detailed explanation regarding whether you can date while you are separated.

Can I Change My Name When I Get Divorced in South Carolina?

You can change your name when you get divorced in South Carolina. When the divorce is finalized, you will be required to testify under oath that your decision to change your name is for personal reasons. You’ll also need to answer specific questions to confirm that the change isn’t an attempt to evade legal responsibilities, such as criminal charges, bankruptcy, or registration on a sex offender list.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Divorced in South Carolina?

No, you are not legally required to hire an attorney for a divorce in South Carolina. However, navigating the legal intricacies of divorce can be complicated, especially if there are substantial assets, debts, or custody issues involved. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Complexity: If your divorce is uncontested (meaning both parties agree on all terms), the process might be more straightforward. Even then, ensuring that all paperwork is correctly filed and that you understand all implications can be invaluable.
  2. Protecting Your Interests: An attorney can help safeguard your interests, especially if there’s a dispute over assets, debts, child custody, or spousal support.
  3. Familiarity with the Process: Divorce laws and procedures can be complex, and missing a step or misunderstanding a requirement can delay the process or result in unfavorable terms.
  4. Neutral Advice: Emotions run high during divorces. Having an objective professional can provide clarity and ensure that decisions are made based on facts and the law, rather than emotions.
  5. Paperwork: There’s a significant amount of paperwork involved in divorce. An attorney can help ensure everything is filled out correctly and filed in a timely manner.
  6. Cost: While hiring an attorney does come with costs, representing yourself may end up being more expensive in the long run, especially if mistakes are made or if you end up with less favorable terms than an attorney might have secured.

If you decide to proceed without an attorney, it’s termed “pro se” or “self-represented” litigation. While you can do this, it’s crucial to thoroughly research and understand the divorce process in South Carolina to avoid potential pitfalls.

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