Deciding to file for divorce in South Carolina raises questions for spouses, especially around residency requirements, the process itself required for South Carolina divorce papers, and more.
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, or want to know what’s required of you when you receive divorce papers, contact Turner Family Law for more information on how to file for divorce in Greenville, South Carolina.
South Carolina Requires Separation Before Divorce
One factor that makes South Carolina distinct from other states is that spouses must do more than simply state that they have irreconcilable differences or that the marriage is permanently broken.
In a no-fault divorce, spouses must live separately and apart for an entire year with no sexual contact during that time before filing a no-fault divorce. However, you can also file for an Order of Separate Maintenance, which can resolve custody and the division of your marital estate where you would not have to wait an entire year to settle these issues. This will not get your Divorce. You would need to speak with your attorney about this issue. When filing on fault grounds, you must allege and provide evidence that your spouse is responsible for one or more of the following grounds for divorce in South Carolina:
- Habitual substance abuse,
- Physical abuse
- Desertion for at least one year
What are South Carolina’s Residency Requirements for a Divorce?
You must meet one of two residency requirements in South Carolina before initiating a divorce.
If one spouse is not a resident of South Carolina, the other spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of 12 months prior to filing for South Carolina divorce papers.
If both spouses are residents of South Carolina at the time you filed for divorce, you must have lived in the state for a minimum of three months.
What Is South Carolina’s Child Custody Residency Rule?
Although you are able to file for a divorce if both of you have lived in South Carolina for at least three months, the final South Carolina divorce decree cannot resolve child custody issues unless the child has lived with one parent in South Carolina for a minimum of six months, or since the time of their birth if the child is younger than six months before filing.
Exceptions to this six-month rule can be difficult to prove, which makes it important to hire a lawyer if you don’t meet these grounds already.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce in South Carolina
You must decide whether to file for an uncontested or contested divorce in South Carolina.
To file for a simple uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must be in agreement on issues such as dividing your property and debts, child support payments, and child custody or visitation arrangements where applicable. Furthermore, you must also have an agreement with the other spouse about whether either person will pay alimony for how long and how much will be paid.
Uncontested divorces can conclude more quickly than contested because the spouses are in agreement.
Contested divorces mean that you and your spouse are not able to agree on at least one aspect of post-divorce life related to child custody, division of property, or alimony. Qualified attorneys can help you prepare for both uncontested and contested divorces by walking you through each step, helping you avoid mistakes, and providing you with a resource to respond to any issues that arise.
What Happens After Filing for Divorce?
One party initiates the divorce by filing a Complaint for Divorce. This person is referred to as the plaintiff.
Once filed, the spouse (now the defendant in the matter) must be served that divorce with a Summons. This is the formal process for notifying the defendant that a divorce has been filed.
There are a few ways you can serve your spouse divorce papers in South Carolina:
- Delivering the paperwork yourself if your spouse is willing to sign “Acceptance of Service”
- Using a process server like a sheriff to hand-deliver the forms
- Sending the paperwork via U.S. certified mail return receipt requested
No later than ten days after serving the defendant, the plaintiff must file either the Acceptance of Service or the Affidavit of Service with your local clerk of court’s office.
The defendant spouse must accept and then answer the Complaint for Divorce.
The answer gives this spouse the chance to raise any defenses to or complaints about the initial papers filed by the other person.
For an uncontested divorce, the parties can then discuss and sign a settlement agreement to divide their assets and liabilities and address issues like child custody and visitation.
For contested divorces, the next step is usually a hearing at either party’s request known as a Motion for Temporary Relief. This is a very important hearing since it can address temporary concerns like visitation, restraining orders, and use/possession of the family home.
A judge will review written testimony from affidavits in most cases to determine these temporary measures. Most decisions from a judge at this stage will remain in place until the final divorce decree, so it’s beneficial to have a lawyer help you draft them.
Once any temporary motions are handled, your case will be scheduled for future hearings to discuss any contested issues.
Get a Divorce Lawyer’s Help in Greenville, South Carolina
Whether you’ll be the first to file or have recently been served papers by your spouse, you may benefit from working with a compassionate Greenville, South Carolina divorce lawyer. J. Michael Turner, Jr. can represent your primary concerns and best interests for the entirety of your divorce trial.