How to File Divorce in South Carolina

How to File Divorce in South Carolina

During the American Civil War, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the union and the first shots of the war were fired at Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor.  If you are looking to secede from your marriage you need to know these rules for filing a divorce in South Carolina.  

Locals only

You can only file for divorce in South Carolina if you or your spouse has been a resident of the state for at least one year.  If you are both residents of the state, then you only have to have been a resident for three months. 

Grounds for divorce

Nearly all divorces today are granted on a no-fault basis.  That just means that the couple wants to split up and go their separate ways.  In South Carolina, the grounds for a no-fault divorce is when spouses have lived separate and apart for one year.  This generally requires at least one spouse to move out of their marital home.

If a couple is still living in the same house and acting like a married couple then a court is not supposed to grant their divorce. 

Living separately for a year while still technically married can be a difficult task.  The couple is still legally bound together, meaning one spouse cannot run off with all the couple’s money.  

Many divorcing couples are also struggling just to stay afloat financially.  It can be hard to afford two homes in that situation. A separation agreement can be helpful to set clear boundaries during this time.

No-fault divorces are a relatively new option.  Before the 1970s, the only way to get divorced was by proving your spouse did something wrong.  These “fault” grounds for divorce have been abolished in many states, but South Carolina still has them.  The fault grounds include adultery, desertion for a period of one year, physical cruelty, and habitual drunkenness.  

Self-help welcome

The South Carolina courts, through South Carolina Legal Services, have developed a series of forms that are intended to allow people to quickly and easily file for divorce themselves. 

This free, interactive program is a preferred method for many people that do not have a lot of assets to fight over.  

Property division

At divorce, the court will typically order the division of all “marital property.”  Marital property is everything that the couple acquired during the marriage, with a few exceptions.  

Those exceptions include things like inheritances or gifts.  Entering a written marital settlement agreement will also stop the marriage from acquiring new property. 

In dividing the property, the court has basically a free hand.  The split will often wind up being about even, but the court has to consider factors like the duration of the marriage, marital misconduct, whether spousal support is being awarded, the health and income of each spouse, and what is happening with the marital home. 

Caring for children

The court will typically also look at the child’s living situation at the time of divorce.  Custody will usually be shared between the parents.  The court may also order child support, requiring one parent to pay the other to even out the costs of raising the child.

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