Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina – What You Need to Know

For an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, the husband and wife are looking to go their separate ways without the expense and heartache of fighting in family court. These couples usually wonder whether they need to hire a lawyer or hire their lawyers to get divorced. They know they need to bring their case to family court, but they need to know the process from there. If you are looking for information on an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, here is the information you need to know, including whether you need a lawyer, whether one lawyer can represent you and your spouse, the divorce process, and more.

Do You Need to Hire a Lawyer for an Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina?

It’s possible to get divorced in South Carolina without an attorney. However, clients came to us because they attempted the process and found themselves unsuccessful in court.

Several procedural requirements must be met. The paperwork must be correct. For example, both parties must file accurate financial declarations with the family court. Also, even if you think the agreement you’ve developed is good, the family court still has to decide whether it is fair and equitable to both parties and in the best interests of any children involved. If you choose to attempt this process independently, we strongly encourage you to schedule a consultation at least to know your rights and better understand the process in family court. The consultation could save you time and money in the long run.

Additionally, frequently, when we review an agreement that spouses have written, we spot details that neither spouse thought of. When this happens, we can likely help with a solution. Here are some examples:

1) Marital Home – Sometimes, the husband and wife are on the marital home’s deed, note, and mortgage. Although they decided that one of them would keep the home and be responsible for the mortgage payments, they forgot that they both remain obligated to the bank, so the other spouse can’t get a loan to buy a new home. The solution may require the spouse keeping the home to refinance the loan within a reasonable period; otherwise, the house must be sold.

2) Parenting Schedule – Another example is that the couple may have devised a great parenting schedule that works for a pre-schooler, but they haven’t considered what schedule works best for everyone when the child enters school. In this instance, the family court may send you back to the drawing board to figure out a new parenting schedule. We can help you figure out a schedule that works now and in the future.

3) Tax Consequences – In other cases, there are tax consequences to how property is transferred, support is paid, and other taxation issues that neither spouse considers when coming up with their agreement. When we advise our clients, we inform them of how their agreement may impact them with the IRS. These are just three of many examples of where an uncontested divorce should remain uncontested, but the separation agreement needs a little fine-tuning.

When is a Divorce Uncontested in South Carolina?

There are many issues for couples to consider if one or both want an uncontested divorce in South Carolina. If there are children, you need to address custody, visitation, support, and other details regarding your children. Marital property needs to be divided. Marital debts need to be apportioned. You need to decide whether one party will pay alimony to the other or whether you will both waive alimony. These are just some of the issues depending on the particular situation. If you and your spouse agree on all the problems, the divorce is often called “uncontested.” However, if there is a dispute concerning any of these issues, then your divorce is contested.

Can One Divorce Attorney Represent Both Parties in an Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina?

One divorce attorney can’t represent both the husband and the wife in an uncontested divorce in South Carolina. In 1981, the South Carolina Bar’s Ethics Advisory Committee issued an opinion stating: “The position of the [husband and wife] in a divorce action are inherently adversary. We conclude that an attorney could and should not represent both.”

Even though we can’t represent both spouses in an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, we can advise the spouse who hires us and prepare an agreement according to that spouse’s wishes. We will send the agreement to the other spouse and ask if that spouse proposes that anything be changed. We will not provide any advice or substantive representations to the other spouse, except that we will encourage that spouse to have the agreement reviewed by his or her lawyer. Otherwise, we deal with the pro se (doesn’t have a lawyer) spouse fairly and professionally. After all, we want (and encourage) your divorce to remain uncontested.

What’s the Process for an Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina?

In an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, we ensure your agreement is signed before anyone enters the courtroom. After it is signed, we file a case with the court and request a hearing.

We also ensure all of the appropriate paperwork is prepared and attend the hearing to ensure everything runs smoothly. At the hearing, we have the agreement approved by the court so that it is enforceable. Then, we proceed with the divorce and ask the court for any name changes (typically a wife who wants to use her maiden name) if necessary.

How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina Cost?

For divorces in South Carolina, most lawyers charge by the hour, and their hourly rates vary depending upon the lawyers’ experience. The more experienced the lawyer may be, the higher the hourly rate. That being said, oftentimes, the more experienced a lawyer may be, the faster they can get the work done.

As for how many hours it takes (and how much you pay) for a lawyer to get you an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, the answer depends on several things such as:

  1. How complex is your divorce – Cases involving child custody, visitation, and/or complex finances typically take longer and cost more than a divorce with no children or assets.
  2. How organized and helpful you are – Some clients are well-prepared and have all of the information and financial documents a lawyer needs to process your divorce. The more disorganized and unprepared you are, the more hours your lawyer will take to prepare and process your divorce.
  3. How uncontested your divorce may be – If you and your spouse have reached a comprehensive agreement, your lawyer can process your divorce faster. However, if there are unsettled issues, such as a parenting schedule, your lawyer will spend more time negotiating a resolution of those issues.

So, if your divorce isn’t complex, you are organized and prepared, and your divorce is indeed uncontested, the cost may be $2,500.00 to $4,500. However, if there are complications, even an uncontested divorce in South Carolina may cost you several thousand dollars.

We charge by the hour for our services. If your divorce is uncontested, we plan to keep it that way and keep your hourly fees to a minimum!

Do I Have to Wait One Year for a Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina?

Probably. You must have legal grounds in South Carolina to get a divorce. The grounds for divorce are:

  • one year’s continuous separation,
  • adultery,
  • physical cruelty,
  • habitual drunkenness or drug use, and
  • desertion.

To “keep the peace,” an uncontested divorce in South Carolina is usually based on one-year continuous separation. This means you can’t file for divorce until 365 days have passed since you and your spouse separated. We caution couples not to spend one night together during these 365 days because it could reset the clock.

Even if you’re waiting for one year to get an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, you can still go to family court to get your separation agreement approved by the court. This way, you don’t have to wait a year before you have an enforceable agreement.

What About Do-It-Yourself Separation Agreements for an Uncontested in South Carolina?

South Carolina’s family court system has online information and documents for you to file your own “simple” divorce, but the court does not provide a sample separation agreement. However, there are plenty of free and paid online separation agreements. Some of these forms aren’t bad. However, when it comes to an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, one size doesn’t fit all. Your needs, your spouse’s needs, and your children’s needs are unique. You will be better served by speaking with our divorce lawyers about your situation before cramming your family’s future into a template separation agreement.

Here is one example of why template divorce agreements don’t always work. In South Carolina, a spouse has inheritance rights when their husband or wife dies without a will. Just because you have a separation agreement doesn’t mean that these inheritance rights go away if the other spouse should die before the divorce is finalized. None of the template forms we’ve seen address this issue. Again, this is just one of many examples of the shortcomings of separation template forms.

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