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Divorce

Overview

In South Carolina, there are five grounds for divorce, four fault–based and one “no–fault.”

The fault–based grounds for divorce in South Carolina are:

  • Adultery
  • Physical cruelty
  • Habitual intoxication (alcohol or drugs)
  • Desertion (for one year or more).

The no–fault ground is a one-year continuous separation. You will not be considered separated if you and your spouse live on the same property, even if you live in separate bedrooms or in a carriage house on the same property. If you and your spouse have sexual relations during the separation, the one-year “clock” begins anew.

Filing for Divorce

In South Carolina, all family court matters are decided by a Judge, not a jury. To file for divorce, you must have lived in South Carolina for 3 months (1 year if your spouse does not live in South Carolina).

Child Custody

Generally, only the “home state” of the child has jurisdiction to determine child custody issues. The “home state” is where the child last lived for a period of 6 months or more. The “tender years doctrine”, creating a preference for granting custody of young children to their mother, was abolished in 1994. Joint custody of children will be ordered only in exceptional circumstances.

Child Support

The amount of child support to be paid is usually calculated by guidelines which factor in each parent’s gross income, children’s health insurance costs, childcare costs, and how many nights the children spend with each parent. The S.C. Dept. of Social Services’ website has a calculator in which you can determine the amount of child support.

In South Carolina, the child support obligation continues until the child turns 18, is married or becomes self–supporting, whichever first occurs, or past the age of 18 if the child is enrolled and still attending high school, not to exceed high school graduation or the end of the school year after the child reaches 19, whichever is later.

Alimony

Although there are 4 different types of alimony awards, the most common is “permanent, periodic alimony,” which is required to be paid every week or month until either spouse dies, or until the payee remarries or continuously cohabitates in a romantic relationship.

There is no minimum length of marriage required for an alimony award; alimony has been awarded for marriages which lasted less than two years. Unlike child support, there is no specific formula determining an amount of alimony.

Equitable Division

The Court will equitably divide all property acquired and debts incurred during the marriage. With the exception of property inherited from a third party, any property acquired or debts incurred during the marriage will be presumed to be “marital property,” regardless of which spouse paid for it or whose name it is in.

Although an equal (50/50) division of marital property and debts is customary for a long–term marriage, equitable does not mean equal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get a legal separation?

There is no such thing as a “legal separation” in South Carolina. You are either separated or not. If you are separated and don’t have grounds for a divorce, you can bring an action for “separate maintenance & support.”

Can I get an annulment if we’ve only been married a few months?

Even if you only spent 1 night together with your spouse, you will have to get a divorce, unless you have a legal basis for an annulment, which is rare.