Family Law

Great question! We've developed a whole brochure that explains the divorce process. You can access it here: 

South Carolina recognizes the following grounds for at-fault divorce: (1) Adultery,(2) Habitual Drunkenness or Drug Use, (3) Physical Cruelty, and (4) Desertion*. *This is hardly ever used because the requirements are the same as a 365 day divorce.

The thing to remember before you file on one of the above grounds is this: you have to be able to PROVE the fault. You have to have clear evidence. Witnesses, pictures, medical records, audio recordings, and other evidence are REQUIRED to proceed with an At Fault Divorce. If you cannot prove one of these grounds, you will need to file under the traditional divorce ground; the 1 year separation divorce.

The At Fault Divorce path moves quicker than usual divorce proceedings, and sometimes is called a “90 day divorce” (although it should be noted that almost nothing in the COVID-era of the court system moves within 90 days). BUT, it should be noted that in this scenario, there is a wrong-doer, which can create a more contentious court environment. 

If you do not qualify for a fault-based divorce as described above, you will have to file for a divorce based on 1 year separation. This means the spouses must live apart for 365 days in order to have a final divorce. This means that the parties may NOT live in the same home, nor engage in sexual intercourse.

Each time you “reconcile,” with your spouse, the time required for separation begins again. What does that mean? Did your partner move back for a couple days while you tried to work it out? That starts the clock over. Did you have sex over the weekend despite living apart? That could start the clock over.

If your situation is tumultuous, and you feel you need rules in place while you wait for your 1 year countdown to run, consider filing for separate support and maintenance. In this scenario, you have a temporary hearing (extra $25 fee applies) and the Judge will give you an Order setting forth rules for both parties to follow. While this is not a “divorce” filing, it can be converted into a divorce at the final hearing stage. We highly recommend you consult with an attorney if you want to pursue this option.

If you’ve already lived apart for 1 year, the process will move faster for you, as you don’t have to wait.

 

You must file a divorce packet including the following papers, which can be found at www.sccourts.org:
Family Court Cover Sheet
Summons
Complaint

Financial Declaration (even if you’re not asking for money, and even if you don’t have much money)

You will need: 3 copies of the divorce packet and a money order in the amount of $150. Take these items to the FAMILY COURT CLERK OF COURT for your county. They will keep one copy (the original) for the judge. They will give you 2 copies back -- one is for you, and the other is to give to your spouse.

Your spouse must be notified that you have filed for divorce. The divorce papers must be hand-delivered to them by someone else. You will need a process server to do this. You can find a process server through a basic internet search. They usually charge between $30-$60. They will give you back a signed paper saying that they served your partner. DO NOT LOSE THIS PAPER. Take the paper to the Clerk and have them file it with your other documents. It will cost no money to file this with the Clerk. You cannot move forward with your case if your partner has not been served with the divorce packet. If you are having issues serving your partner, consult an attorney.

This is a hearing that can occur after filing and before mediation. There is an extra filing fee of $25. At this 15 minute hearing, the Judge will read over the filed pleadings and affidavits and temporarily decide how property and custody should be divided. Temporary restraints may be put into place. The Order from this hearing stays in place until the Final Hearing. It does not necessarily reflect what the final order may be. Temporary hearings are not needed in every divorce case. If you think you may need a temporary hearing, consult with an attorney.

Unless you have a signed agreement, you must complete mediation. You and your partner must agree on a certified family court mediator in your area. Certified mediators are usually attorneys or retired judges. They charge by the hour for their services, and you will be required to pay for half. Lawyers and judges are great mediators but are costly. Some mediation centers around the state offer low cost or sliding scale mediations.

What to Expect During Mediation
You will be in a separate room from the other party and will not have to speak directly to them at any point;
Mediations last between 2 - 4 hours;
You will receive paperwork at the end: either a signed agreement or a statement of participation;
The paperwork you receive from the mediator must be shown to the judge at your Final Hearing.