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Divorce

There are five grounds for divorce in South Carolina: adultery, habitual drunkenness, physical cruelty, abandonment, and no fault, which is based on the parties living separate and apart for at least one year. Mental abuse/cruelty is not a basis for divorce in South Carolina.

Divorces are granted in specific courts, designated as Family Courts. Family Court Judges have jurisdiction over divorce, as well as separations, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support and alimony, and division of marital property, including retirement and pensions.

A divorce action may be initiated as a separate case, only requesting a divorce from the other spouse, once the grounds for the divorce are proven, or as part of an action including separate maintenance and support. To include the request for divorce as part of a case for separate maintenance and support, the parties must satisfy the separation requirement before filing, or the filing spouse must be able to prove the fault ground(s) alleged in the Summons and Complaint.

A divorce action is started when one spouse, or his or her attorney, files a Summons and Complaint, stating the grounds on which he or she wishes to be divorced from the other spouse, and, if applicable, how he or she would like the marital assets and debts to be divided. If there are minor children from the marriage, child custody, visitation, and support would be included in the Complaint. The party who files the case is the Plaintiff.

Once the case is filed, the other spouse is personally served with a certified copy of the Summons and Complaint. The spouse’s attorney, if he or she has one, may accept service of the Summons and Complaint on behalf of his or her client. They then have 30 days to file an Answer, responding to the allegations in the Complaint, and Counterclaim, outlining how he or she would like the Court to address the issues in the case.

In an action for divorce only, there is one hearing, a final divorce hearing. This hearing is scheduled for 15 minutes, and is purely to determine whether the requirements for divorce on the ground requested have been met. A third party witness is required to corroborate the testimony of the party claiming that the grounds for divorce have been met.

This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.