South Carolina Divorce Laws
The state of South Carolina has unique divorce laws for people who wish to terminate their marriage.
We are providing this online divorce information to you as an easy divorce reference guide to help you while you are doing your own divorce. This information (and much more) is available inside your personal 3StepDivorce account area in order to help you understand how South Carolina addresses the most important issues in the divorce process and certain elements throughout your divorce forms.
The following overview of South Carolina divorce laws will help you understand the filing procedure and other primary issues concerning your divorce. Please keep in mind that our South Carolina online divorce service and support staff will make the process easy for you from start to finish. We take the difficulty out of doing your own divorce.
Residency Requirements: In order to file for a divorce in South Carolina, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:
In order to institute an action for divorce from the bonds of matrimony the plaintiff must have resided in this state at least one year prior to the commencement of the action or, if the plaintiff is a nonresident, the defendant must have so resided in this state for this period; provided, that when both parties are residents of the state when the action is commenced, the plaintiff must have resided in this state only three months prior to commencement of the action.
Actions for divorce from the bonds of matrimony or for separate support and maintenance must be tried in the county (a) in which the defendant resides at the time of the commencement of the action, (b) in which the plaintiff resides if the defendant is a nonresident or after due diligence cannot be found, or (c) in which the parties last resided together as husband and wife unless the plaintiff is a nonresident, in which case it must be brought in the county in which the defendant resides.
The divorce is typically filed with in county in which the filing spouse resides. (Code of Laws for South Carolina - Chapter 3; Sections 20-3-30, 20-3-60, 20-3-80)
No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested divorce cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of South Carolina the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:
(A) On the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year. (Code of Laws for South Carolina - Chapter 3; Sections 20-3-10)
Filing Party Name: The Plaintiff. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the divorce and is the one who actually files the Complaint for Divorce with the county court.
Non-Filing Party Name: The Defendant. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested divorce versus a contested divorce. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.
Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: State of South Carolina, The Family Court of the __________ Judicial Circuit. All divorce cases in the state of South Carolina are facilitated through this court for that particular county.
Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a South Carolina clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: County Clerk's Office of the Family Court.
Property and Debt Division: South Carolina is considered an "equitable distribution" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the marital property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is marital. Second, it will put a value on the marital property. Third, it will divide the marital property in an equitable fashion, which is not necessarily equal, but rather what is considered to be fair.
In determining the appropriate property award the court will decide what is marital property and divided that property is an equitable fashion by considering the following factors: A. The length of the marriage. B. The age of the spouses. C. Marital fault or misconduct. D. The current value of the property. E. The contribution each spouse made to the acquisition of the property. F. The income of each spouse. G. The earning potential of each spouse. H. The health of each spouse. I. The need of each spouse. J. The separate property of each spouse. K. The retirement benefits of each spouse. L. The tax consequences. M. Expenses a debts of each spouse. N. The custody arrangement if children are involved. O. Any other relevant factors. (Code of Laws for South Carolina - Chapter 3; Sections 20-7-472, 20-7-473)
Changing Name: The court, upon the granting of final judgment of divorce, may allow a party to resume a former surname or the surname of a former spouse. (Code of Laws for South Carolina - Chapter 3; Sections 20-3-180)
Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.
In making an award of alimony the court will consider all of the following factors: (A) the duration of the marriage together with the ages of the parties at the time of the marriage and at the time of the divorce or separate maintenance action between the parties; (B) the physical and emotional condition of each spouse; (C) the educational background of each spouse, together with need of each spouse for additional training or education in order to achieve that spouse's income potential; (D) the employment history and earning potential of each spouse; (E) the standard of living established during the marriage; (F) the current and reasonably anticipated earnings of both spouses; (G) the current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of both spouses; (H) the marital and nonmarital properties of the parties, including those apportioned to him or her in the divorce or separate maintenance action; (I) custody of the children (K) the tax consequences to each party as a result of the particular form of support awarded; (L) the existence and extent of any support obligation from a prior marriage or for any other reason of either party; and (M) such other factors the court considers relevant. (Code of Laws for South Carolina - Chapter 3; Sections 20-3-120, 20-3-130, 20-3-140)
Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the South Carolina courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.
In determining the best interests 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. The court will also consider evidence of domestic violence, the current situation and nature of the divorce, and the religious faith of the parents. The court will not award custody based upon the gender of the parent. (Code of Laws for South Carolina - Chapter 3; Sections 20-3-160, 20-7-100, 20-7-1520)
Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the South Carolina child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.
The court shall consider the following factors which may be possible reasons for deviation from the guidelines: (A) educational expenses for the child or children or the spouse; (B) equitable distribution of property; (C) consumer debts; (D) families with more than six children; (E) unreimbursed extraordinary medical or dental expenses for the noncustodial or custodial parent; (F) mandatory deduction of retirement pensions and union fees; (G) support obligations for other dependents (I) monthly fixed payments imposed by a court or operation of law; (J) significant available income of the child or children; (K) substantial disparity of income in which the noncustodial parent's income is significantly less than the custodial parent's income; (L) alimony. (M) agreements reached between parties. (Code of Laws for South Carolina - Chapter 3; Sections 20-3-160, 20-7-40, 20-7-100)
Copyright Notice: These South Carolina divorce laws above are copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.
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