South Carolina Legal Separation Papers & Divorce Information and FAQ

South Carolina law permits no-fault divorces based upon living separate and apart without cohabitation for at least one year. Additional grounds include; adultery, desertion, physical cruelty and addiction to drugs or alcohol. 3-20-3-10 Residency requirements South Carolina law requires that one of the spouses must be a resident of the state for a minimum of one year (three (3) months if both parties are residents of South Carolina) immediately prior to the filing of the petition for divorce. 3-20-3-30

Venue The petition for divorce must be filed in the county in which the defendant resides at the time of filing, or where the plaintiff resides if the defendant is a non-resident or cannot be found. The petition may also be filed in the county where the parties last shared a residence, unless the plaintiff is a non-resident, in which case it must be filed in the county where the Defendant resides. 3-20-3-60

Name of court and title of action/parties An action for divorce in the State of South Carolina is filed in the Family Court. The title of the action initiating the divorce action is the Complaint for Divorce, while the title of the action granting the divorce is referred to as the Decree of Divorce. The party filing the action is the Plaintiff, while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Defendant.

Legal separation South Carolina law permits a judgment of separation. 3-20-3-140

Waiting period Unless the plaintiff is seeking a divorce based upon living separate and apart without cohabitation for one year, there is a three (3) month waiting period from the filing of the petition before the court will grant a judgment of dissolution of marriage. 3-20-3-80

Alimony The courts may award alimony to either spouse. Alimony may be periodic, lump sum, rehabilitative or reimbursement type. Adultery is considered by the court when making a determination as to whether alimony should be granted. Factors the court considers in determining the amount and term of alimony include:

1. The duration of the marriage and the age of the parties. 2. The physical and emotional condition of the parties. 3. The educational background of the parties along with the need of each for additional training or education. 4. The employment history and earning potential of each spouse. 5. The standard of living established during the marriage. 6. The current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of each spouse. 7. The current and reasonably anticipated earnings of each spouse. 8. The marital and non-marital properties of each spouse. 9. Custody of the children. 10. Marital misconduct, and 11. Any other relevant factors.

Either party may petition the court for an order or judgment increasing or decreasing the amount of alimony. 3-20-3-120

Distribution of property South Carolina is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court will divide the marital property between the parties as it deems equitable and just, after setting aside to each spouse the separate property of each. Some of the factors the court considers in dividing the property between the parties include:

1. The duration of the marriage. 2. The age of the spouses. 3. Marital misconduct. 4. Economic misconduct. 5. The value of each party’s marital property. 6. The contribution of each spouse to the marital estate. 7. The income of each spouse. 3-20-7-472

Child custody South Carolina courts will decide the issue of custody based upon the best interests of the child. In determining the best interest of the child, the court must consider the child's reasonable preference for custody. The court shall place weight upon the preference based upon the child's age, experience, maturity, judgment, and ability to express a preference. Religious faith shall also be considered in determining custody. In making a decision regarding custody of a minor child, in addition to other existing factors specified by law, the court must give weight to evidence of domestic violence. 3-20-7-1515, 3-20-7-1520

Child support In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the court may order either or both parties to pay a reasonable amount necessary for the support of a child of the marriage. The South Carolina legislature has established child support guidelines which establish the presumptive correct amount of child support. Deviation from the guidelines require a specific finding by the court that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate and such findings must be included in the judgment. 3-20-7-852

Name change The court, upon granting a final judgment of divorce, may allow a party to resume the use of their former name. 3-20-3-180

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