The divorce process in America lasts for 12 months on average and 18 months if it needs to go to trial. A divorce is already a painful process, but misunderstanding the basic laws in play can make it last longer and cost more. Being forearmed with the right information on South Carolina divorce laws and finding the best attorney for you is the best way to save yourself even more pain.
If you’re considering getting a divorce, you might have many questions about divorce laws in South Carolina. Fortunately, we’ve gathered the answers to the questions most commonly asked by people during the divorce process. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.
Jurisdiction and Divorce Laws in South Carolina
The first thing to look at is whether the South Carolina family court has jurisdiction to grant you a divorce order. Where a person lives (their domicile) has a huge effect on their legal position. One of the biggest effects it has is which court may adjudicate their divorce.
There are two scenarios in which a Carolina family court may hear a divorce case. The first is if the plaintiff has been a South Carolina resident for longer than 3 months and the second is if either party has been a resident for longer than a year.
The plaintiff may file for divorce in either the Family Court or the Circuit Court in the county where the defendant lives or where the couple cohabited. If the defendant isn’t a South Carolina resident anymore, then the plaintiff can file in the country where they live.
Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina
The South Carolina Family Court may grant a divorce on a number of grounds. If you’ve been living separately for over a year, then you can file for a no-fault divorce.
If you want to file for a fault-based divorce, you have to prove one or more of four acceptable types of faults. If your spouse committed adultery, deserted you for a year or more, was physically abusive, or regularly gets intoxicated, then you have grounds for a fault-based divorce. The judge needs to see evidence or hear testimony to back up claims of fault.
The burden to prove fault rests with the party that alleges the misbehavior. If you’re going to go for a fault-based divorce, it’s very important to make sure that you have enough appropriate evidence to convince the judge of your allegations.
Basics of South Carolina Divorce Proceedings
All divorces in South Carolina start with a plaintiff filing a complaint for divorce. Other documents supporting the plaintiff’s reasons for divorce will accompany the complaint (for example, proof that they’ve been a resident in South Carolina for the required time). From there, the divorce can either take the contested or the uncontested route.
An uncontested divorce is quicker and far less unpleasant, but it requires the couple to be in absolute agreement on all details such as property division and custody. The parties have to file a marital settlement agreement with all these details with the court. After that, they simply attend one hearing where the judge finalizes everything.
Contested divorces arise when the parties can’t agree on something important. In these cases, the parties’ attorneys argue the matters before the judge. The judge then decides in favor of what is fair according to the circumstances and the law.
Property Division in South Carolina
The couple can agree to divide their property on their own terms. The judge simply ratifies the agreement as part of the marital settlement agreement. There’s also a process to divide property if the couple can’t reach an agreement.
First, the court will separate the property into two categories. These categories are marital and nonmarital property.
Nonmarital property is everything a person owns apart from the marriage. This includes inheritances, gifts, and even property that the spouse worked for separate from the marriage. The spouse needs to provide evidence to prove that something is nonmarital property.
Marital property is everything the couple owns jointly. It also covers all debts they have together (such as home mortgages). The court will consider many criteria when dividing marital property.
Alimony in South Carolina
The court can grant alimony or spousal support according to the judge’s discretion. The judge considers many factors when making this decision. Each spouse’s earning power, mental and physical health, and the length of the marriage are among these factors.
Periodic or rehabilitative alimony can help someone get back on their feet. Lump-sum or reimbursement alimony can “settle” the toll of the divorce once and for all. The judge can also order another form of temporary maintenance if they find that appropriate.
Child Custody in South Carolina
Knowing how South Carolina treats child custody can be very helpful in divorces that affect children. It always works out better if both parties can sit down and make or negotiate a suitable custody agreement. The custody agreement must be in the best interest of the children or the judge may override it.
If the parties can’t reach a custody agreement, the judge will move forward and decide what’s in the children’s best interest. Most of the time the judge or the parties will appoint a special investigator to come up with a report to better inform the judge’s decision.
Get in Contact With Great Attorneys
Divorce is an incredibly painful thing, but acting in accordance with the divorce laws in South Carolina can ease some of the burdens. Understanding how to file, when to file, and on what grounds to file is key to maintaining some peace of mind and calmness at the outset of the procedure.
Knowing what’s expected of you for alimony and custody concerns can also inform you on what kind of legal strategy to employ.
A skilled divorce attorney should be able to peacefully guide you through the divorce process while also fighting for your rights. If you’re considering a divorce and are looking for outstanding legal counsel in Mount Pleasant, contact us today.