Many people think of a separation as an interim step before getting a divorce. For some, a separation is a permanent solution to a relationship that isn’t working. For example, people may choose separation over divorce because of religious beliefs or concerns about the impact of divorce on their pensions, health insurance or Social Security benefits.
If you live in South Carolina and are considering a separation, here are some important facts you should know:
- South Carolina technically does not offer legal separations. However, state law provides for something called a Decree of Separate Maintenance and Support. Under such an order, the spouses live separate and apart from each other (in separate households, not just separate bedrooms). Many spouses seek a DOSM to define their responsibilities and protect their interests while separated.
- This type of order determines the financial responsibilities the spouses have to each other. It may set forth whether there will be spousal support, and how much, and how often it will be paid. A Decree of Separate Maintenance and Support may also contain provisions for child custody, visitation, child support, and division of marital property between the spouses. A couple may agree upon a settlement and submit it to the court for approval, or the parties may have a contested hearing and the Court will make the final decision on the issues.
- A Decree of Separate Maintenance and Support keeps the marriage intact; it is not a divorce.
- When living under this type of order, neither one of you can marry someone else.
- After a Decree of Separate Maintenance and Support has been filed, one spouse ultimately must file a separate action to pursue the divorce and terminate the marriage.
An experienced family law attorney can help you obtain a Decree of Separate Maintenance and Support that protects your rights and your financial situation and defines your obligations.