South Carolina divorce details
Uncontested VS Contested Divorce in South Carolina
There are two main ways how to arrange the divorce proceeding. Namely, you can contest the case or not.
A Contested Divorce is a “traditional” long-drawn process which includes numerous court hearings and litigation with the lawyers’ assistance. The spouses entrust to the court to settle their differences. A contested divorce is typically expensive because of hourly attorneys fees. Also, it may bring a lot of stress and emotional challenges and may be especially harmful to the children from the marriage if any, because they are involved in the discussion of a custody before the court.
In opposite, an Uncontested Divorce implies that the spouses want to resolve all the problems amicably and as soon as possible. They take it on 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 to save time and money and to try to keep the smooth relationship with the former spouse.
Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina
An uncontested divorce is based on the no-fault ground of a one-year separation. No one need to blame each other, the spouses have the only joint aim to get an easy divorce and to settle all the difficulties quickly and peacefully.
So, you should meet some requirement 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 is need to be divided or you are able to reach an agreement on these issues and sign the Marital Settlement Agreement. An uncontested divorce is perfect to end the short-term marriage.
Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina
Filing for divorce you must point the ground of the dissolution. There are four "fault grounds" and the only "no-fault ground" for divorce in SC. Fault grounds for divorce assume misconduct of the non-filing spouse and the other spouse’s attempt to win the case according to this factor. In brief, fault grounds lead to contesting the case. They are:
- Alcohol/Drugs addiction
- Physical cruelty
- One year desertion of one of the spouses.
The no-fault ground for divorce in SC 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.
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 running. However, if both parties are residents of South Carolina the Plaintiff (the Petitioner, the spouse who initiates the divorce) may reside in the state just within 3 months before filing the divorce complaint.
It’s also important to file for divorce in the correct county. You can file for you SC 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, but notice these 6 steps you have to take anyway:
- Make sure you meet the residency requirements and you’re ready to settle the divorce terms without 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 the delivery succeed. Your spouse has 35 days to give a response (the “Answer” form).
- If you and your spouse are 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. Also you should bring to the hearing the person who can testify that you and your partner really have lived apart for a year, and you meet the no-fault ground requirements.
- Attend the final hearing, which is very brief and calm process if it's about 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 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.
Also, you’ll need to learn the divorce laws of South Carolina and your particular county and collect the necessary forms without missing a tiny detail of your case. DIY divorce is a procedure that requires responsible and careful attitude.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
An initial cost of uncontested divorce in South Carolina is equal to the amount of a filing fee which is $150. Although $150 is the cheapest possible price for the divorce you may have to pay some additional fees, namely, for the sheriff’s service or for mediation (although mediators’ fee is an hourly payment it’s still cheaper than attorneys’ fees, at least because mediation fees are shared between the spouses).
South Carolina divorce lawyers offer the flat fees for uncontested cases, but such a payment starts at $750 per case.
How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced in South Carolina?
Time needed to finalize the divorce in South Carolina may vary due to numerous factors.
Although South Carolina hasn't any “cooling-off period” (the mandatory waiting period after the petition is filed), you should take into account 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. You shouldn’t rush in such a serious matter. Typically, an uncontested divorce takes from between 1 and 3 months in South Carolina. However, you should count a one-year separation before filing the divorce.
A contested divorce can be granted not earlier than in 90 days after Complaint is filed but, surely, it usually takes much more, about 12 months or more in some cases.
Papers & Documents You Need to Get a Divorce in South Carolina
Your divorce case conditions may demand plenty of special forms and efforts, Whatever they are, here is a basic list of forms which you can find on the official website of the State of South Carolina and should fill in anyway:
- 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)
We've mentioned these forms above, when outlined the process of uncontested divorce, so you could understand the sense of each document.
How to Serve Your Spouse in South Carolina
If you are Petitioner it’s your responsibility to serve your spouse with the divorce paperwork.
In South Carolina, there are four ways how to deliver the copies to your soon-to-be ex-spouse:
- Certified mail (with 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.
Online Divorce in South Carolina
In South Carolina, you can’t actually file for divorce online, you must go to the court anyway at least one time. The term “Online divorce” in the Palmetto State refers to downloading and 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. So, you don’t need to figure all these things out by yourself and you can save your precious time. Our help costs only $149 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 the child custody must always be decided by the court in the best interest of a child. In the majority of states, the close contact with both parents and the 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 much difficult for divorced parents to communicate as much as the joint custody implies. So it may be not in a child's best interest if the parents just continue to quarrel and argue about upbringing as well as they did before the divorce.
Although the spouses still can request a joint custody, they must prove to the court that it is in a child’s best interest. So, in the most divorce cases in South Carolina, one of the parents is awarded the 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 a child, each parent’s personal characteristics, free time to spend with a child, suitable home environment, that is safe and emotionally favorable, the desire and ability to encourage the child’s talents and intellectual development.
Parenting schedule also isn't decided on some strict principles, it depends on parents’ wishes and possibilities. The spouses are welcome to resolve these issues amicably and independently, resorting the litigation only in a pinch.
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 payment.
Rules for Spousal Support in South Carolina
Spousal support, or Alimony, is a payment from the one spouse to the other in order to prevent the financial hardship because of divorce. The aim is to provide the stable standard of living for both partners, not to punish or favor one of the parties. The only exception is that the spouse committed adultery can’t request an alimony in SC.
An amount and a 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 should cover 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 his/her spouse’s earning ability.
- Rehabilitation. The title speaks for itself, this time-limited periodic payment is needed to give the spouse who earns less an opportunity to get educated or improve professional skills and become self-sufficient person.
- 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 award after the long-term marriage.
Division of Property in South Carolina
In South Carolina, the property is divided under the “Equitable distribution” rules. All the 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 to turn out very different if exactly 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.
Notice, that only the marital property is subject to division.
The marital property is all that the partners earned and acquired during the marriage, regardless of title (in whose name the property is).
The separate property remain be kept by the initial owners. The separate property includes everything the spouses had prior to marriage, personal gifts and inheritances given to one spouse during the marriage, and some assets or objects that must be considered as a separate property according to the prenuptial agreement if any.
Division of Debt in South Carolina
As a part of a property, the marital debt is a subject to division while the 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 the one spouse, or to 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 you’ll need to pay the half of debt you had no any idea about.
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 the litigation if possible. In some counties of South Carolina, the 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 the litigation and the numerous court hearings with mutual blaming and discussion of personal problems before the court can be much harder.
Also, mediation is voluntary even it 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 he/she wants. 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 the court.
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 your spouse is hiding or you just have no any idea about his/her 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 his/her last known address and wait for respond.
- If your spouse is silent, you should make attempts to know his/her 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 your actions you’ve taken to locate the 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.
- After that, 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 (the Respondent) fails to answer the divorce Petition or just can’t be found (as it’s outlined above). The divorce can be granted without his/her 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 he/she officially has this time to file an Answer.
If the spouse fails to respond 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 about 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 the Marriage in South Carolina
In South Carolina, an annulment is also the way to officially dissolve the marriage. The main feature of an annulment is that unlike the 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 (lie about something significant for the marriage).
- Mental incompetence (one spouse was disabled to really consent the marriage).
- Underage (under 16).
- Incest (related more closely than first cousins).
- Living apart (the spouses never cohabitated).
Legal Separation in South Carolina
South Carolina doesn’t recognize a Legal Separation.
If the spouses want to remain married living separately, there is no need to file for such a status officially.
However, South Carolina family courts may offer so-called Orders of Separate Maintenance and Support. These orders are temporary, they can regulate some property and child custody issues in the case the spouses live apart. But anyway, Order of Separate Maintenance doesn't affect the couple as divorce does. The marriage remains marriage.
Same-Sex Divorce in South Carolina
South Carolina recognizes same-sex marriages and grants same-sex divorces since 2014, a year before the landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Nowadays, the same-sex couples have the same rights and options in dissolving their marriages as the straight ones do.
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 the military spouses are protected from the 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.
- The military retirement payments are not subject to division as a marital property unless the spouses were married more than 10 years while the spouse has been active duty military.
- Amounts of a child support and an 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, foremost, you must 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 wait for the final hearing or to file for a default divorce. In 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 probably can not cope without a lawyer.
South Carolina Divorce Filing Fee
Divorce filing fee is an initial fee to cover the court services. This pay is charged when you complete the Petition for divorce in the Clerk’s office.
In South Carolina, the divorce filing fee is $150, and this cost is rather low compared with it in the other US states.
But notice, that if you want to request a temporary hearing or any additional motion you should pay an additional filing fee of $25.
Can a Filing Fee Be Waived?
Yes, a filing fee can be waived for an indigent Petitioner. If the Petitioner really can’t afford to pay the fee as he/she doesn't meet the federal poverty guidelines, he/she 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 the then the Petitioner may be exempt from payment.
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