South Carolina divorce details
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Uncontested VS Contested Divorce in South Carolina
There are two main ways to arrange the divorce proceeding. Namely, you can contest the case or not.
A contested divorce is a “traditional” long-drawn process that includes numerous court hearings and litigation with a lawyers’ assistance. The spouses entrust the court to settle their differences. A contested divorce is typically expensive because of expensive hourly attorneys fees. Also, it may bring a lot of stress and emotional challenges, and may be especially harmful to the children in the marriage if any, because they are involved in the discussion of custody before the court.
In comparison, an uncontested divorce implies that the spouses want to resolve all the problems amicably and as soon as possible. They take it upon themselves to decide child custody, support, and property division issues, resorting for mediation if needed. An uncontested divorce is popular in South Carolina as it allows you to save time and money and to try to keep the smooth relationship with your former spouse.
Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina
An uncontested divorce is based on the no-fault ground of a one-year separation. No one needs to blame each other and the spouses only have a joint aim to get an easy divorce and to settle all the difficulties quickly and peacefully.
You should meet some requirements to file for uncontested divorce, also known as simple divorce in South Carolina. It’s good if you don’t have children and property that need to be divided, or if you are able to reach an agreement on these issues and sign the Marital Settlement Agreement. An uncontested divorce is perfect to end a short-term marriage.
Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina
When filing for divorce you must point the ground of the dissolution. There are four "fault grounds" and only one "no-fault ground” for divorce in South Carolina. Fault grounds for divorce assume misconduct of the non-filing spouse and the other spouse’s attempt to win the case based on this factor. In brief, fault grounds lead to contesting the case. They include:
- Alcohol/Drugs addiction
- Physical cruelty
- One year desertion of one of the spouses.
The no-fault ground for divorce in South Carolina sounds like “One year’s separation”. The spouses must live separate and apart for at least one year before filing the Petition in order to keep their reasons of divorce private.
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South Carolina Residency Requirements to File for Divorce
To file for divorce under the South Carolina jurisdiction, either spouse must be a resident of the state for at least one year before starting the case. However, if both parties are residents of South Carolina, the Plaintiff (Petitioner, or the spouse who initiates the divorce) may reside in the state for just 3 months before filing the divorce complaint.
It’s also important to file for divorce in the correct county. You can file for divorce both in the county where your spouse resides and where you reside (in case your spouse is a nonresident), as well in the county you last lived together as a family.
How to File for an Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina
Your personal divorce may have its individual features, even if the case is uncontested and not so complicated. However, there are 6 basic steps that you must take:
- Make sure you meet the residency requirements and that you are ready to settle the divorce terms outside the court.
- Complete and file the Complaint for Divorce (the Petition that officially starts the motion) and the other necessary paperwork with the Clerk of Court, Family Court Division. Pay the filing fee.
- Serve your spouse with the copies of the forms and get a return receipt that shows that the delivery was successful. Your spouse has 35 days to give a response (the “Answer” form).
- If you and your spouse have agreed on everything, you may request for the hearing and wait for the “Notice of Hearing” from the Court Clerk. This document informs you about the date of the hearing. You must send a copy of it to your spouse as well.
- Complete the "Final Order of Divorce" and the "Report of Divorce or Annulment" forms. You should also bring to the hearing the person who can testify that you and your partner really have lived apart for a year and that you meet the no-fault ground requirements.
- Attend the final hearing, which is a very brief and calm process if it’s for an uncontested divorce. The judge can sign a final order within 15 minutes, and the divorce will be officially granted.
Do-It-Yourself Divorce in South Carolina
The term DIY divorce means that you arrange your divorce case without any legal assistance. It’s not so easy as it may seem, but is still possible.
Foremost, you should know that Do-It-Yourself divorce is a suitable option only for the simplest cases and short-time marriages. If you have property or children, you may be required to attend several mediation sessions to settle these controversial moments.
Furthermore, you’ll need to learn the divorce laws of South Carolina and your particular county, and collect the necessary forms without missing any tiny detail of your case. DIY divorce is a procedure that requires a responsible and careful attitude.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
The initial cost of an uncontested divorce in South Carolina is equal to the amount of the filing fee which is $150. Although $150 is the cheapest possible price for the divorce, you may have to pay some additional fees such as for the sheriff’s service or for mediation (although mediators’ fee is an hourly payment, it’s still cheaper than attorneys’ fees because at least mediation fees are shared between the spouses).
South Carolina divorce lawyers offer flat fees for uncontested cases, but such prices starts at $750 per case.
How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced in South Carolina?
Time needed to finalize divorce in South Carolina may vary due to numerous factors.
Although South Carolina doesn’t have any “cooling-off period” (the mandatory waiting period after the petition is filed), you should take into account the 35 days your spouse has to complete an “Answer” once the Complaint is filed. Also, you may need additional time in order to make the Marital Settlement Agreement. Typically, an uncontested divorce takes from between 1 and 3 months in South Carolina. However, you should count a one-year separation period before filing the divorce.
A contested divorce can be granted no earlier than 90 days after the Complaint is filed. However, it usually takes much more time: about 12 months or more in some cases.
How to Serve Your Spouse in South Carolina
If you are the Petitioner, it’s your responsibility to serve your spouse with the divorce paperwork.
In South Carolina, there are four ways to deliver the copies to your spouse:
- Certified mail (with a return receipt requested).
- Personal service (your spouse must sign the “Acceptance of Service” and you have to file it with the Court Clerk).
- Sheriff’s service.
- Private Process Server.
You are not allowed to hand the documents directly to your partner by yourself.
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Documents You Need to Get a Divorce in South Carolina
Your divorce case conditions may demand plenty of special forms and efforts. Below is a basic list of forms which you can find on the official website of the State of South Carolina:
- Family Court Cover Sheet (SCCA 467/SCBar-467)
- Certificate of Exemption (SC Bar SD-1)
- Summons (SCBar SD-2)
- Complaint for Divorce (SCBar SD-3)
- Financial Declaration (SCBar 430(a))
- Request for a Hearing (SCBar SD-&0)
- Final Decree of Divorce (SCBar SD-8)
Online Divorce in South Carolina
In South Carolina, you can’t actually file for divorce online as you must go to court anyway at least one time. The term “Online divorce” in the Palmetto State refers to the online preparation of the forms. You may download the forms from the official website of the State or use an online divorce service like ours.
The convenience of our service is that we offer a full ready-to-sign paperwork kit adapted to your county’s rules and certain needs and queries. As a result, you don’t need to figure out all these things out by yourself and it can help you save time. Our services only cost $139 per case without any hidden fees, and our forms are 100% approved by the South Carolina Family Courts.
Rules for Child Support and Visitation in South Carolina
It’s not a secret that child custody must always be decided by the court in the best interest of a child. In the majority of states, close contact with both parents and joint custody are assumed to be the best decision, but South Carolina jurisdiction has a completely different presumption. It’s considered that it can be too difficult for divorced parents to communicate as much as joint custody implies. So it may not be in a child's best interest if the parents just continue to quarrel and argue regarding this issue just like they did before the divorce.
Although the spouses can still request joint custody, they must prove to the court that it is in the child’s best interest. As a result, in most divorce cases in South Carolina, one of the parents is awarded custody, and the other non-custodial parent gets an order for visitation.
The judge decides custody regardless of the parent’s gender, but there are plenty of more important conditions that must be taken into account because all of them can greatly affect the child’s life. Among these conditions are the child’s reasonable preferences, each parent’s relationship with the child, each parent’s personal characteristics, suitable home environment that is safe and emotionally favorable, and the parents’ desire and ability to encourage the child’s talents and intellectual development.
Parenting schedule also isn't decided on some strict principles, as it depends on the parents’ wishes and possibilities. The spouses are welcome to resolve these issues amicably and independently, resorting to litigation only as a last resort.
As for child support in South Carolina, its fair amount is calculated under “the South Carolina’s Child Support Guidelines”, and the special calculator that takes into account both parents’ income, earning capacity, contribution into the child’s welfare and the child's habitual standard of living. It is assumed that both parents contribute to the child’s well-being, but only the non-custodial parent must make a regular support payments.
Rules for Spousal Support in South Carolina
Spousal support, or alimony, is payment made from one spouse to the other in order to prevent financial hardship because of divorce. The aim is to provide a stable standard of living for both partners, not to punish or favor one of the parties. The only exception is that the spouse who committed adultery can’t request an alimony in South Carolina.
The amount and length of the payments are settled by spouses themselves or by court order. The length of the marriage, health and financial condition of each spouse, their education, earning capacity and professional skills and other significant factors should be taken into account.
Generally, there are 4 types of alimony that can be awarded in South Carolina:
- Lump Sum. The one-time payment which typically covers the divorce expenses and effects of the sharp change of everyday financial condition.
- Reimbursement. The compensation for the particular situation, expenses, one party's contribution to their spouse’s earning ability.
- Rehabilitation. This time-limited periodic payment is ordered to give the spouse who earns less an opportunity to get educated or improve professional skills and become self-sufficient.
- Periodic Sum. This is a long-term alimony. The spouses can settle its terms by themselves, but more often it must be paid until the receiving spouse remarries or dies. This type of alimony may be awarded after a long-term marriage.
Division of Property in South Carolina
In South Carolina, property is divided under the “Equitable distribution” rules. All marital property should be divided by the spouses themselves or at the discretion of the court in an “equitable and fair way”. This means that eventually, the portions of the property can turn out very different if this proportion seems to be fair according to plenty of factors.Dividing the property the court considers such factors as length of the marriage, age, health and financial condition of each spouse, fault grounds for divorce, child custody arrangements, specific needs of each spouse, the tax consequences and others.
When dividing property, the court considers factors such as the length of marriage; age, health, and financial condition of each spouse; fault grounds for divorce; child custody arrangements; specific needs of each spouse; the tax consequences; and others.
Note that only the marital property is subject to division.
Marital property is all that the partners earned and acquired during the marriage, regardless of title (under whose name the property is listed).
Separate property remains the same and is kept by the initial owners. Separate property includes everything the spouses had prior to marriage such as personal gifts and inheritances given to one spouse during the marriage, and some assets that must be considered as a separate property according to the prenuptial agreement if any.
Division of Debt in South Carolina
As part of property, the marital debt is also subject to division while separate debt is not.
Marital debts are divided under the same equitable rules as rest of property in South Carolina, so debts can belong to one spouse, or both spouses, as well in equal and unequal shares.
As every divorce case is unique, it all depends. At least, in the equitable distribution state, there is no need to worry that you’ll need to pay for half of the debt if you had no part in it.
Divorce Mediation in South Carolina
Mediation is a way to negotiate with your spouse in order to reach a marital settlement agreement. During the mediation session, the couple goes through their divorce under the guidance of neutral and qualified mediator. The aim of mediation is to resolve the most important issues of the case such as property division, support and child custody, and avoid litigation if possible. In some counties of South Carolina, divorce mediation is required by the court as a mandatory option.
Nowadays, divorce mediation is increasingly popular for its availability (mediators’ hourly fees are shared by the spouses) and privacy. It may seem difficult to negotiate with your former spouse peacefully, honestly, and freely, but litigation and numerous court hearings with mutual blaming and discussion of personal problems before the court can be much harder.
Furthermore, mediation is voluntary even in the counties where it is required by the court. The point is, you must attend the session and try this option, but either spouse may quit mediation whenever they want. It’s good if you make your marital agreement as a result, but if you don’t, it is still your right to go to court.
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How to Divorce a Missing Spouse in South Carolina
No one can force you to remain married if you don’t want to, so you can get a divorce even if you are unaware of your spouse’s location.
In South Carolina, such a divorce is called the Divorce by Publication, and here are the main steps of the process:
- Try to serve your spouse using their last known address and wait for a response.
- If your spouse is silent, you should make attempts to find out their current address or telephone number in all possible ways.
- In order to get a divorce when your spouse is missing, you must complete and submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search to the court. This form outlines all your efforts to find your spouse, and these efforts must be convincing for the court to approve your Affidavit and permit a service by publication.
- If the court approves all the actions you’ve taken to locate your missing spouse, the Service of Summons begins. You are allowed to publish the Summons of your case in a local newspaper. The notice must be published once a week for three weeks.
- Afterwards, the newspaper grants you an Affidavit of Publication, which you should submit to the court. 30 days after the last publication, you can file for a divorce by default. The divorce can be granted without your spouse’s participation.
Default Divorce in South Carolina
Default divorce is what happens when the non-filing spouse (Respondent) fails to answer the divorce Petition or just can’t be found (as outlined above). The divorce can be granted without their participation on the Petitioner’s terms.
To have a right to the motion for default, you should wait 35 days after your spouse was served because they officially have this time to file an Answer.
If your spouse fails to respond within this time, you must complete two forms - the Affidavit of Default for Divorce and the Request for Hearing. These forms provide the court with all the needed information regarding your case including when your spouse was properly served.
You must file these forms in the Clerk’s office and wait for the court to appoint the default hearing.
Annulment of Marriage in South Carolina
In South Carolina, an annulment is another way to officially dissolve the marriage. The main feature of an annulment is that unlike a divorce, it doesn’t terminate a valid marriage, but just declares the marriage invalid and illegal from the very beginning. Another difference is that your desire is enough reason to divorce, but you can annul the marriage only after proving one of these grounds:
- Duress (the consent to marriage obtained by force and threat).
- Fraud (lied about something significant for the marriage).
- Mental incompetence (one spouse was disabled to really consent to the marriage).
- Underage (under the age of 16).
- Incest (related more closely than first cousins).
- Living apart (the spouses never cohabitated).
Legal Separation in South Carolina
South Carolina doesn’t recognize Legal Separation.
If the spouses want to remain married while living separately, there is no need to file for such a status officially.
However, South Carolina family courts may offer a so-called Orders of Separate Maintenance and Support. These orders are temporary and they can regulate some property and child custody issues in the case the spouses live apart. Regardless, Order of Separate Maintenance doesn't affect the couple as a divorce does and the marriage remains official.
Same-Sex Divorce in South Carolina
South Carolina recognized same-sex marriage and same-sex divorce in 2014, a year before the landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Nowadays, same-sex couples have the same rights and options in dissolving their marriages as any other couples.
Military Divorce in South Carolina
Military divorce rules in South Carolina don’t differ a lot from those in other US states, because all the features of a military divorce are stated by the federal laws such as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).
- Foremost, if you or your spouse is an active service member, you are allowed to file for divorce in the state where you are stationed as a military, not only where you reside.
- All military spouses are protected from a default divorce by the SSCRA. The divorce proceeding may be postponed for the whole period of the military spouse’s active duty and for another 60 days after that.
- Military retirement payments are not subject to division as marital property unless the spouses were married for more than 10 years while the spouse was on active duty.
- Amounts of child support and alimony can’t be higher than 60% of a military spouse’s allowance.
How to Divorce a Spouse in Jail in South Carolina
As in any regular divorce case, you must first serve your spouse with the divorce paperwork. It must be delivered by the Sheriff’s service (in the county where your spouse is located) or handed directly by the prison director.
Depending on whether your spouse answers the Petition or not, you may either wait for the final hearing or file for a default divorce. In an uncontested divorce, your spouse may not need to be present at the hearing, because the final hearing is typically mandatory if some children-related issues must be settled. If your spouse wants to contest the case, you will most likely need a lawyer.
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South Carolina Divorce Filing Fee
Court filing fees are in addition to the cost of using DivorceFiller.com. This cost may vary by county. Please check with your local courthouse to determine the exact amount.
Can a Filing Fee Be Waived?
The filing fee can be waived for an indigent Petitioner. If the Petitioner really can’t afford to pay the fee as they don’t meet the federal poverty guidelines, they should fill out the “Motion and Affidavit to Proceed In Forma Pauperis” form and submit it to the court along with the Financial Declaration. The judge reviews the motion and then the Petitioner may be exempt from payment.
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