You want to get divorced in South Carolina. One of your first questions may be how long it is going to take. Is there a waiting period? How long is it? Is there anything I can do to shorten the waiting period?
Our experienced divorce lawyers discuss waiting periods for divorce in South Carolina.
Divorce Waiting Periods in South Carolina
Practically, for most people, the waiting period is one year. Most divorces in South Carolina are filed on a no-fault basis. That creates a one-year period where the parties must live separately and apart.
To file on different grounds, like adultery, physical cruelty or habitual drunkenness, the moving party must present the facts and show that the basis of divorce applies. However, at a minimum, a three-month waiting period applies. The court may not grant a decree until three months after the complaint is filed. Practically, it may take longer. Even with everything in order, the parties must wait for the court to schedule a final hearing. If the divorce is contested, the parties will take time to litigate and wait for their trial date.
There is an exception to the three-month waiting period when the basis of divorce is desertion or separation for one year. The court may hold the final hearing and issue the judgment of divorce as soon as responsive pleadings are filed or the defendant is in default.
About the Divorce Waiting Period in South Carolina
The three month waiting period from official filing to decree of divorce is the official waiting period imposed by statute. However, there are several different situations where a waiting period may slow down the proceedings. Here is a summary of waiting periods that may apply:
- Waiting period for decree of divorce: Under S.C. Code § 20-3-80, the court may not issue a decree of divorce until three months after a complaint is filed with the Clerk of court. In addition, the court may not have a reference until two months after the filing of the complaint.
- Residency: To file for divorce in South Carolina, the plaintiff or defendant must have lived in the state for at least one year. If both parties are residents, the plaintiff must have lived in the state for three months. (SC Code § 20-3-30).
- Attempt at reconciliation: In any proceeding referred to a master or special referee, S.C. Code § 20-3-90 requires the parties to try reconciling. The judgment of divorce may not be granted until the reconciliation has been attempted and it is determined that it was unsuccessful.
- No-fault: When the basis for divorce is no-fault, the parties must live separately and apart for one year without cohabitation. (§ 20-3-10(5)). The parties may have to wait until the one-year period is complete.
- Desertion: Divorce may be granted on the basis of desertion for a period of one year. (§ 20-3-10). This period may create a delay while the filing party waits for the one-year period to be complete.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
A divorce in South Carolina may be contested or uncontested. A contested divorce is when the parties do not agree on all the issues. They may disagree on some or all of the issues – child custody, child support, alimony and division of property. Even if there is one contested issue, the divorce is considered contested. An uncontested divorce occurs when spouses agree on all questions, orders and determinations that the court would otherwise have to make.
Having a contested divorce inevitably creates delays. The parties want and need time to build their respective cases. There will be status hearings, motions and attempts to negotiate a non-trial resolution. An uncontested divorce has these issues resolved. The parties may proceed straight to the final hearing.
Should I have an uncontested divorce?
It may seem practical to have an uncontested divorce. If your goal is to get divorced as soon as possible, having contested issues resolved is certainly to your benefit. However, a divorce proceeding is one of the most consequential things that you will ever do. It’s important to evaluate your best interests and what to consider as you determine how to proceed. An uncontested divorce is not necessarily better in protecting your legal interests.
Our lawyers can help you evaluate what to consider and your options. We can guide you on how to proceed in your case, balancing your goal to complete your case quickly with the goals of getting the result that you deserve and protecting your legal rights.
Why Are There Waiting Periods for Divorce in South Carolina?
There are several reasons that the law imposes a waiting period for divorce in South Carolina. A marriage is a legal contract. Divorce should not be undertaken lightly. Having a waiting period ensures that the parties want to proceed with the divorce.
In addition, divorce proceedings use judicial resources. Court time must be set aside for hearings. Ensuring the parties are sure about their divorce conserves these resources. Finally, having a waiting period allows the parties time to negotiate and narrow the contested issues for trial.
How our lawyers can help
Our lawyers can assist you with:
- Determining what grounds may be available to you to file for divorce
- Understanding the various waiting periods and how they may apply in your case
- Minimizing waiting times to resolve your case expeditiously
- Protecting your rights, weighing all the considerations in how to proceed in the case
- Building your case, using the discovery process, legal motions, and other process to your favor
- Knowing what you can do and should do to help your case
- Answering your questions, explaining the law and creating a strategy for your situation
Waiting periods in a South Carolina divorce are an important factor. They vary based on the circumstances of your situation and how you choose to proceed with the case.
Understand How Long Divorce Takes With a Family Lawyer
J. Michael Turner, Jr. is an experienced divorce lawyer in Greenville. If you have a question about waiting periods, or you are ready for legal assistance with your case, we invite you to contact us at Turner Family Law.
Learn more about divorce waiting periods and how we may assist you. Call or message us today.