south carolina divorce process

The South Carolina Divorce Process

Debra E. Stokes, L.L.C. has 40+ years experience to help YOU!

South Carolina has four grounds which are “fault” grounds; they require that a party prove that his or her spouse did something “wrong.” The “fault” grounds are as follows: adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness or addiction to narcotic drugs and desertion. The fourth ground which may be considered a “fault” ground is desertion. If one spouse leaves the other without any reason and without the consent of the spouse who is left, then he or she is guilty of desertion. Once the deserter has been gone a year, the deserted spouse can seek a divorce on that ground.

The fifth ground of divorce, which is considered as “no fault” is separation for a period of one year. Although the parties live separate and apart for the same period of time, separation differs from desertion in that there is no “fault” requirement in regard to the one year’s separation. If parties remain apart for one year for any reason, then either can file for a divorce. Realistically, this ground is meant to replace “desertion.”

If you desire a divorce, you must prove at least one of the above grounds with legal evidence (for example: your testimony, photographs, letters, private investigators, etc.). Usually, if you testify to the grounds you must corroborate, or back up, your testimony with that of someone else or with some sort of document.

Remember: a divorce pleading (for example: a “Complaint” or an “Answer”) must be as accurate as possible. You represent that the facts stated in the pleading are true of your own knowledge. Occasionally, facts in a pleading will be stated “upon information and belief.” This means that you discovered those facts from another source, but believe them to be true. If there is any purposefully incorrect or untruthful statement in your pleading, you could be extremely prejudiced by it. Furthermore, willful untruths stated under oath may subject a person to punishment for perjury, which is a crime.

Once a divorce Complaint is filed with the Clerk of the Family Court in your jurisdiction, no final divorce can be granted for three months. No Final Hearing (a Hearing on the merits) can be held for two months after the Complaint is filed. The exception to this general rule is a divorce action for desertion or separation. There is no mandatory waiting period on these two grounds. But remember, you cannot even file your action on these grounds until you have been separated for a year. If your case is “settled” by an agreement between you and your spouse, then your divorce could be final within the three month period – if you have sufficient proof and corroboration of your ground(s). This is subject to scheduling limitations of the Court, the attorneys and the parties. A highly contested divorce most likely will take a longer time.

Usually, a Temporary Hearing, known as a “pendente lite” Hearing, will be held shortly after the Complaint is served. At this Hearing, which normally will last 15 to 30 minutes, the Judge will attempt to set forth the “ground rules” under which you, your spouse, and your children will operate until a divorce is granted or a Final Order is issued. Usually no verbal testimony is allowed at the Temporary Hearing. The Judge will make his/her decision based on the written documents (Affidavits and Financial Declarations) filed with the Court. Many times, parties are dissatisfied with the Temporary Hearings. However, Temporary Hearings are designed to avoid any gross prejudice to either party until a Judge can hear the entire matter. A Judge is not bound by the Temporary Order in making his/her final decision.

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