For many couples, obtaining a divorce is one of the most challenging and emotional decisions they can make. Yet, depending on the circumstances of the marriage, sometimes separation and divorce become necessary.
In South Carolina, divorce is divided into two categories: at-fault and no-fault. However, many couples do not know the differences between these options.
To help you better understand what these categories can mean for you and your future, we have prepared the below guide, where we will walk you through everything you need to know about divorce in South Carolina. Reach out to a divorce lawyer.
What to Know About At-Fault and No-Fault Divorces
Until the 1970s, a couple needed a reason to divorce their significant other, making separation much harder. However, this process changed dramatically when states started to allow for no-fault divorces because it made it easier for a spouse to leave a marriage without having to show fault or grounds for the divorce.
In South Carolina, the court grants no-fault divorces when a couple separates or lives apart from their partner for at least one year. In comparison, at-fault divorces in South Carolina do not have a one-year separation requirement, but they do require a spouse to allege that their partner caused the breakdown of their marriage.
Legal Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina
South Carolina provides five grounds to obtain a divorce:
- Physical cruelty
- Habitual drunkenness
- No-fault divorce
When filing for divorce in the state, the parties must provide one of the above reasons for the separation. The first four grounds fall into the at-fault divorce category and proving them requires detailed evidence to show a spouse’s fault for breaking up the marriage.
To establish adultery, a person needs to provide enough evidence to show that their spouse had an opportunity to commit adultery and was inclined to commit adultery. However, the person does not need to show that their spouse actually cheated on them or provide proof that their spouse had sexual intercourse with another person.
Instead, you can demonstrate adulterous behavior through videos or photos, text messages, or social media activity that shows the spouse had an opportunity and inclination to cheat.
To obtain an at-fault divorce due to abandonment, a person would need to show that their spouse deserted them for at least a year and that they never intended to return to the marital home. The person would also have to show the spouse left for no reasonable cause.
Under this ground, there needs to be evidence that a person was physically cruel to their spouse and that there was actual physical injury. Unfortunately, in South Carolina, emotional cruelty and verbal abuse are not enough to satisfy the requirements for physical cruelty. Rather, the court requires proof of more than one act of violence unless an act is severe.
To prove physical cruelty, spouses may need to provide:
- Text messages from a spouse apologizing for the abuse or detailing the abuse they inflicted
- Eye-witness accounts
- Photos or videos of the abuse
- Medical records
- Police records
- Orders of protection
Habitual Drunkenness or Drug Use
To obtain a divorce on the ground of habitual drunkenness or drug use, a person would need to show that their spouse was habitually using intoxicating substances, such as alcohol or other types of drugs. Furthermore, they also need to prove that because their spouse was habitually using these drugs, it interfered with their marriage and parenting.
To show this interference, a person can use receipts or bank records of their spouse regularly visiting bars, medical records for rehab, criminal records related to drug or alcohol use, or employment records showing that the spouse had problems at work resulting from their alcohol or drug use.
What Is a No-Fault Divorce in South Carolina?
The fifth ground for a divorce, also known as a no-fault divorce, is usually the most cited reason for divorces in South Carolina. A no-fault divorce arises when a marriage breaks down for a reason outside the four grounds mentioned above. In general, couples file for a no-fault divorce if the dissolution of the union is due to irreconcilable differences, including a difference of opinions or even growing apart from one another.
However, while a couple can file a no-fault divorce when still living together, a court will not grant this divorce until the couple has lived apart from one another for at least a year. The state imposes this one-year requirement with the hope of promoting reconciliation between the couple within that time.
How Do You File for a Divorce in South Carolina?
If you are pursuing a no-fault divorce in South Carolina, the process is relatively straightforward. As soon as the couple begins to live in separate homes, the clock will start running to meet the one-year requirement. Once they have lived apart for a whole year, they can file for a no-fault divorce.
They need not file any documentation to prove they lived apart. Rather, testimony from the filing spouse and a witness that can attest to the couple living apart for one year can establish the required time.
After filing for divorce, the amount of time it will take to finalize it will usually depend on whether or not the parties contest the divorce. An uncontested divorce means that the spouses agree to the issues at hand. However, the divorce will become contested if disputes arise. As a result, an uncontested divorce can take around three months to resolve, while a contested divorce can take far longer to finalize.
In comparison, if an individual files for an at-fault divorce, the process may take less time, but it can become a more complex ordeal. The spouse filing for divorce must present evidence to show grounds for the divorce. Fortunately, working with an experienced South Carolina family law attorney can help you properly prepare these filings to avoid issues that can impact your divorce proceedings.
What to Consider Before Filing for Divorce in South Carolina
Before you can pursue a divorce in South Carolina, you must meet the state's requirements.
Regardless of the type of divorce you want to pursue, you will need to establish:
- You or your spouse resided in the state for at least one year before the filing of the divorce
- Both spouses have lived in the state for at least three months before the divorce filing
In addition, if you want to pursue a no-fault divorce:
- You must have a mutual understanding of how to split your property or shared debts
- You must reach a custody or visitation agreement if you have children
- You and your spouse must have lived separately for at least one year
To better understand these filing requirements, consider discussing the process with a knowledgeable family law attorney as soon as possible. These legal professionals can thoroughly review this process with you, ensuring you understand what you must go through every step of the way and answer any questions or concerns you may have.
The Pros and Cons of No-Fault Divorce
When determining whether you should proceed with a no-fault divorce, individuals must consider the pros and cons of this approach.
For instance, some of the significant advantages of pursuing a no-fault divorce in South Carolina include:
- The process is quicker since the court will not have to assign blame to a spouse for the breakup of the marriage
- The process provides more privacy which is beneficial if the couple has children together
- The process is usually less stressful than pursuing an at-fault divorce
- A no-fault divorce helps reduce conflict between the parties
However, the major disadvantage of pursuing a no-fault divorce stems from the fact that the couple has to live apart for an entire year before a divorce can be granted. This can create numerous hardships and financial issues for a spouse who wants to move on from the marriage.
Deciding Between an At-Fault Divorce and a No-Fault Divorce
In South Carolina, you can allege both a no-fault divorce, as well an a-fault divorce in the complaint. However, if the case goes to trial, you must pick which divorce you want. As mentioned above, a no-fault divorce will only require the couple to satisfy the one-year separation requirement, while an at-fault divorce requires you to provide additional facts that would entitle you to obtain this divorce.
Can You Date While You Are Separated?
Many people tend to believe that once they are separated from their significant other, they can start seeing other people again. However, South Carolina does not recognize a legal separation. Instead, a couple remains married until the judge signs a divorce decree. This also means that you cannot marry another person until the court finalizes your divorce.
As a result, if you start dating while you are still married, your spouse can use this against you. Not only can this constitute adultery, but it can affect the equitable division of your assets. More importantly, if you are looking into alimony or spousal support, the perception that you are having sexual relations while you are still married could stop you from receiving it.
An Annulment versus a No-Fault Divorce
In addition to a divorce, couples in South Carolina have the option of obtaining an annulment. However, an annulment is not a type of divorce. Rather, it is an alternative to divorce. When a couple obtains an annulment, they obtain a declaration from the court that their marriage was never valid.
You need legal grounds to annul a marriage, which in South Carolina requires an individual to establish:
- No cohabitation
- Mental incompetence
There may also be some additional requirements for the annulment to be valid, depending on the circumstances of the marriage. Consider speaking to a skilled South Carolina family law attorney as soon as possible to better understand your options.
How Can a Family Lawyer Help You When It Comes to Divorce in South Carolina?
If you are thinking about filing for divorce in South Carolina, you may want to consider talking to a knowledgeable South Carolina family law attorney as soon as possible. A legal professional can not only help keep the divorce process moving smoothly while minimizing the chance of a mistake, but they can also help you avoid painful encounters with your spouse.
Additionally, they can:
- Advise you on property division, child support and custody, and alimony.
- Help you understand your rights and options under the laws of the state.
- Prepare and file documents required for the divorce on your behalf, ensuring each document complies with the court rules and procedures.
- Negotiate with your spouse's lawyer on your behalf to reach a fair agreement.
- Represent you during hearings and trials and present evidence and arguments on your behalf, advocating for your best interests.
- Assist you in going after the best possible outcome while protecting your rights from start to finish.
If you want further information about no-fault divorces in South Carolina or want to go over your legal options when it comes to divorce, contact a knowledgeable and dedicated family law attorney today for your consultation and go over your questions and concerns. Reach out to a family law lawyer. Get More Get Morris!