It is common and natural to have questions about the divorce process if you’re thinking of leaving your spouse. In this article, we answer the most frequently asked questions about divorces in South Carolina.
However, if you’re considering dissolving your marriage, you should seek legal guidance and support. The best way to protect your legal rights in all aspects of your divorce is with the help of an experienced attorney.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina?
Many states have moved to a no-fault divorce process for dissolving a marriage. A spouse can claim that the couple has irreconcilable differences to obtain a divorce. They do not need to prove that their spouse committed wrongdoing that led to the breakup of the marriage.
South Carolina’s no-fault divorce provision requires one year of separation. A couple must live separate and apart for a continuous year to obtain a divorce on these grounds. If the couple reconciles even briefly during the year, it nullifies the separation.
South Carolina has four fault grounds for divorce, which are:
- Physical cruelty
- Habitual drunkenness
- Desertion for at least one year
The spouse filing for a fault-based divorce has the burden of proof. They must have evidence to prove that their spouse committed one of the above grounds to obtain a divorce. If you prove fault for the breakup of the marriage, you can get a divorce without waiting a year.
How Long Do I Need to Live in South Carolina to File for Divorce?
The residency requirement to file for divorce in South Carolina is one year. However, if both spouses reside in the state, the filing party must have lived in SC for at least three months. There could be exceptions for military personnel stationed in South Carolina whose residence is in another state.
How Do Judges Decide Child Custody Cases in South Carolina?
Judges in South Carolina base child custody decisions on what is in the child’s best interest. They evaluate numerous factors when deciding the best interest of a child.
Factors judges consider in child custody matters include:
- The reasonable preferences of the parents and the child
- A child’s temperament and developmental needs
- The capacity and disposition of a parent to care for a child’s needs
- Whether a parent has made attempts to disparage the other parent in front of the child or used manipulation or coercion to involve the child in the dispute
- Each parent’s current and past interaction and relationship with the child
- The child’s ties to and relationships with siblings, grandparents, and other significant people in their life
- The stability of the child’s current home
- The child’s cultural and religious upbringing and background
- Allegations of neglect, abuse, or domestic violence
- The child’s adjustment to their community, home, and school
- Any factors the judge deems relevant to the child’s best interests
South Carolina abolished the Tender Years Doctrine in child custody matters. Under the doctrine, courts presumed that a child under the age of four years should remain with the mother. The presumption was rebuttable if there was evidence of abuse or the mother was unfit.
Today, the courts do not give either parent preference in a child custody case. Each case begins with the assumption that joint custody is preferred to allow the child to maintain a close relationship with both parents. If a parent disputes custody, they must prove it is in the child’s best interest for the court to award sole custody.
Is South Carolina a Community Property State for Divorces?
No, South Carolina is not a community property state for divorces. In a community property state, the spouses each own 50% of the marital assets. Marital assets are generally all assets and income acquired by either spouse during the marriage.
Instead, South Carolina judges base property division cases on equitable distribution. When spouses are unable to negotiate a property division settlement, the court decides the case based on what it considers fair and equitable.
However, “fair and equitable” does not mean equal. A judge may divide the marital assets unequally in a divorce case.
For example, a judge may determine that awarding a spouse 60% of the marital assets is fair. The other spouse would receive the remaining 40% of the marital property.
Judges use many factors to determine what is fair and equitable for property division, including fault or marital misconduct, tax consequences, a spouse’s resources, domestic support obligations, and the duration of the marriage. Because you cannot predict how a judge might rule, negotiating a fair property settlement agreement is often in the spouses’ best interests.
How Do Courts Determine Child Support in South Carolina?
South Carolina has standard child support guidelines the courts use to calculate the base amount of a child support obligation.
Factors used to calculate child support include:
- The number of children to be supported
- Each parent’s income
- The custody arrangement (i.e., the number of overnight stays with each parent)
- Payments for health insurance and childcare costs
- The childcare tax credit
Child support cases are not always straightforward. Judges may consider numerous factors that could result in a deviation from the guidelines.
Can I Receive Alimony in South Carolina?
The law permits judges to award spousal support or alimony in a South Carolina divorce case. However, alimony is not a right. The judge must find that one spouse has a need for support and the other spouse can pay support payments before granting alimony.
South Carolina recognizes several types of alimony, including:
- Lump sum alimony
- Periodic alimony payments
- Reimbursement alimony
- Rehabilitative alimony
- Separate support and maintenance during a separation
If a judge determines that alimony is justified in a divorce case, they must decide what type and amount of alimony to grant.
Judges may consider several factors when deciding alimony cases, including, but not limited to:
- The length of the marriage
- The ages of each spouse
- The resources and income for each spouse
- A spouse’s educational background and skills
- The physical and mental health of each spouse
- A spouse’s earning potential and employment history
- The standard of living during the marriage
- Who has custody of the children
- Tax consequences for each spouse
Judges may also consider marital misconduct when awarding alimony. A spouse engaging in marital misconduct could be ineligible to receive alimony.
Contact Our Experienced Rock Hill Divorce Lawyer for a Confidential Consultation
Do you have questions about getting a divorce in South Carolina? Call us to schedule a case evaluation with an experienced Rock Hill divorce attorney. We’ll answer your questions, address your concerns, and explain your legal options and rights regarding divorce actions in the Palmetto State.