Divorce in South Carolina: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated March 26, 2024by Unbiased team

Learn more about the processes and costs associated with divorce in the state of South Carolina.

Summary

  • South Carolina offers both “no-fault” and “fault-based” divorces, each with options based on a couple's unique circumstances. 

  • “No-fault” divorces are generally faster and cheaper than “fault-based” divorces. 

  • The average divorce in South Carolina costs $12,600, including $10,000 in attorneys' fees. 

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward. 

What are the different types of divorce in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, divorces are categorized as either “fault-based” or “no-fault.”

“Fault-based” divorce

In a “fault-based” divorce, the filing spouse alleges that the other's misconduct is the reason for the marital breakdown. 

South Carolina law specifies four grounds for a fault divorce:

  • Adultery: Engaging in a sexual relationship outside the marriage.

  • Desertion: Leaving the spouse for at least one year without consent.

  • Physical cruelty: Inflicting physical harm, posing a risk to health or life.

  • Habitual drunkenness or drug abuse: Consistent alcohol or drug abuse affecting the marriage.

Proving fault requires evidence, making this process potentially longer and more complex. However, successfully establishing fault could influence the divorce outcome, particularly in terms of asset division and alimony, often favoring the non-faulting spouse.

“No-fault” divorce

In a “no-fault” divorce, you just need to state the marriage is irretrievably broken, requiring no blame. Couples must live separately for at least one year. 

It's generally faster and cheaper than fault divorces, focusing on equitable asset division and spousal support without fault consideration.

How much does a divorce cost in South Carolina?

According to a Lawyers.com survey, the average divorce in South Carolina costs $12,600, including $10,000 in attorneys' fees. 

However, the exact cost can vary significantly based on several factors, including the type of divorce, its complexity, and whether it's contested.

Some common costs associated with divorce in South Carolina include:

  • Initial filing fees in South Carolina range from $150 to $300.

  • Attorney fees are the largest expense, with hourly rates between $200 and $500. The complexity and duration of the divorce proceedings largely determine the total cost.

  • Additional costs, including mediation, courses, and other miscellaneous fees, can also increase the overall expense, especially in cases involving custody or substantial assets.

A straightforward, no-fault divorce where both parties agree on key issues can be on the lower end of the cost spectrum.

Conversely, contested divorces or those based on fault can incur significant costs, potentially exceeding the average, if they involve prolonged disputes over assets, alimony, or custody.

How do I file for divorce in South Carolina?

Similar to other states around the country, filing for divorce in South Carolina is a multi-step process. 

Here is a high-level overview of the various steps involved in filing for divorce: 

  1. Fulfill the residency requirements: To be eligible to file for divorce, you or your spouse must have lived in South Carolina for at least a year prior to filing. If both of you are residents, then living in South Carolina for three months before filing meets the requirement.

  2. Determine where to file: You must file for divorce in the county where your spouse lives, where you reside if your spouse is out of state or cannot be found, or in the county where you both last lived together as husband and wife. You can utilize the map on the South Carolina Judicial Branch website to find the appropriate court.

  3. Complete all of your essential documents: The process begins with preparing and submitting several key documents. These include, but are not limited to:

    • Family Court Cover Sheet

    • Summons for Divorce

    • Complaint for Divorce

    • Financial Declaration

  4. File your petition: You will then submit your documents and officially file for divorce. As mentioned, a court filing fee is required to start the divorce proceedings. 

How do you split assets in a divorce in South Carolina?

South Carolina is an equitable distribution state. This means the division of assets during a divorce follows this principle. Assets will be divided fairly, though not necessarily equally.

Before assets can be divided, they have to be classified as either marital (acquired during the marriage) or non-marital (owned prior to the marriage, inherited, or individually gifted). Only marital assets are divided.

All marital assets are then valued to ensure an equitable division.

Similar to assets, marital debts are equitably divided, considering each spouse's ability to pay.

Following the valuation, the court will consider various other factors, including the marriage duration, each spouse's economic circumstances, contributions to marital property, and contributions as a homemaker.

Ideally, both parties will reach an agreement on asset division; the court typically honors this arrangement, provided it's fair and voluntary.

In the absence of an agreement, the court will decide on the division based on equitable distribution laws.

The process ensures that the division of assets is handled fairly, reflecting each spouse's contributions and future needs after the divorce.

How does alimony work in South Carolina?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a payment from one spouse to the other to ensure financial fairness following a divorce. 

In South Carolina, alimony can be awarded to either spouse based on a variety of factors, aiming to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. 

South Carolina recognizes several types of alimony, including:

  • Temporary Alimony: Awarded during the divorce proceedings.

  • Permanent Alimony: Paid regularly (e.g., monthly) for an indefinite period or until specific conditions are met, such as remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse.

  • Lump-Sum Alimony: A fixed, one-time payment agreed upon by both parties.

  • Rehabilitative Alimony: Intended to support a spouse in becoming self-sufficient through reeducation or workforce re-entry.

The court will consider numerous factors when deciding on alimony, such as:

  • The duration of the marriage.

  • The age and health of each spouse.

  • The standard of living during the marriage.

  • Current and anticipated earnings of both spouses.

  • The contribution of each spouse to the marriage, including homemaking and childcare.

It’s worth noting alimony agreements can be modified or terminated based on significant changes in circumstances, such as a substantial increase or decrease in either spouse's income or the recipient's cohabitation with a new partner.

It's also important to consider the tax implications of alimony payments, which have undergone changes following recent tax law revisions. Consulting with a financial advisor or tax professional is advisable.

What happens to children during a divorce in South Carolina?

South Carolina's approach to divorce prioritizes the children's welfare, focusing on custody, visitation, and child support arrangements that best serve their interests. 

The state supports joint custody, allowing both parents to share in raising their children, including physical care and decision-making. 

However, in situations where it's in the best interest of the child, one parent may be granted sole custody, either physical (where the child lives) or legal (making decisions for the child).

While the legal system encourages parents to work together to minimize conflict and focus on the wellbeing of their children during and after the divorce process, if they are unable to do so, the court will make a final decision. 

The court will decide the following:

  • Custody: Courts consider several factors when determining custody, including the child's relationship with each parent, preferences of older and mature children, and each parent's ability to meet the child's needs. The aim is to ensure a stable and supportive environment for the children, with minimal disruption to their lives.

  • Visitation rights: For the non-custodial parent, visitation schedules are designed to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child, adjusted to accommodate the child's schedule and needs.

  • Child support: Child support calculations take into account the financial situations of both parents and the child’s needs, ensuring that the child receives adequate support for education, healthcare, and daily living expenses.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor suited to meet your needs. 

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