In South Carolina, you can obtain a divorce based on one spouse’s fault or one year of continuous separation. Before the divorce is final, some issues which you may face are:

  • Alimony
  • Property division
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support (and expenses not covered by insurance)

You and your spouse can reach an agreement on these issues – possibly through mandatory mediation – or a judge of the Family Court will decide them for you.

Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, it could prove to be an emotionally stressful and legally complex process. This is why you should seek help from an attorney who will bring not only skill and experience to your case, but patience and understanding as well.

Establishing Grounds for a Fault-Based Divorce in South Carolina

The first step in your divorce case will be to determine whether you or your spouse meet South Carolina residency requirements. This can be established by showing one of the following:

  • You have resided in South Carolina for at least one year before starting the action.
  • Your spouse has resided in the state for one year prior to the start of the action.
  • You and your spouse both live within the state, and you have lived here for at least three months before starting the action.

Establishing Grounds for a Fault-Based Divorce in South Carolina

The next step in your divorce case will be to select the grounds for your divorce. Five grounds for divorce can be cited in South Carolina. Four involve the fault of one spouse:

  • Adultery – Proof of adultery (or illicit intercourse of two persons, one of whom, at least, is married) must be sufficiently definite to identify the time and place of the offense and the circumstances under which it was committed. Adultery is an activity that usually takes place in private, so circumstantial evidence may be used to prove adultery. The circumstantial evidence must show that your spouse had both the “inclination and opportunity” to commit adultery.
  • One Year’s Separation – To warrant divorce on the grounds of desertion, there must be a termination from cohabitation for one year, intent on the part of the absent party not to resume cohabitation, the absence of the opposite party’s consent, and an absence of justification for the termination of cohabitation.
  • Physical Cruelty – Cruelty, justifying a divorce in South Carolina, means physical cruelty defined as actual personal violence, or such a course of physical treatment as to endanger life, limb or health, and render cohabitation unsafe. Bodily injury is not required in order to find physical cruelty; instead, one must prove that the other spouse’s conduct created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm.
  • Habitual Drunkenness – To prove a spouse’s habitual drunkenness as a ground for divorce, there must be a showing that the abuse of alcohol caused the breakdown of the marriage and that such abuse existed at or near the time of filing for divorce. One need not be an alcoholic to be guilty of habitual drunkenness, as grounds for the grant of a divorce; it is sufficient if the use or abuse of alcohol causes the breakdown of normal marital relations.

Some Steps in the South Carolina Divorce Process

There are many steps in the divorce process. The basic steps involve:

  • Filing the divorce complaint, summons and other required paperwork with the Family Court in the county where you last shared a residence with your spouse or in the county where your spouse lives or where you live (if your spouse is a non-resident).
  • Serving the complaint, summons and other documents on your spouse (or spouse’s attorney) and giving the spouse 30 days to file an answer and/or counterclaim.
  • Participating in an initial hearing to get a temporary order.
  • Going through negotiation or mandatory mediation to resolve the issues. A mediator is a neutral third party who helps to facilitate an agreement.
  • Going to Family Court trial to seek either a judge’s approval of your agreement or to hold a trial to resolve contested issues.