How Do I Begin the Divorce Process in South Carolina?

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Divorce cases can be as different as the individuals getting divorced.  Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, it may involve alimony, child custody, visitation rights, attorney’s fees, child support, property division and many other issues.  Dealing with the major life change of divorce is enough on its own to stress you out.  Having the help of a talented South Carolina divorce attorney can be crucial to your divorce case.  At Elliott Frazier law firm in Greenville, South Carolina, our attorneys are here to answer your divorce and family law questions and to help protect you and your family’s rights.  We will help you through each step of the divorce process.  There are so many issues and factors that go into a South Carolina divorce.  Let our legal staff help you and your family through this tough transition period.

To start the divorce process in South Carolina, one spouse has to file a complaint about divorce in the county where your spouse lives, or where you reside if your spouse does not live in South Carolina.  If both of you still live in South Carolina, you can also file where you both last lived together.  You must meet the South Carolina residency requirements.  So you and your spouse must have been a resident of this state for at least one whole year.  If both of you live in South Carolina, then you each must have lived here a total of at least three months.  In South Carolina, you can file for a divorce on the base of five grounds.  They include a single no-fault ground that applies only if you and your spouse have been living apart and separate for one year.  There are also four fault grounds for divorce in South Carolina.   The four at fault grounds for divorce are adultery, habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, physical abuse and one year’s desertion.  

To obtain a South Carolina divorce on the ground of a one-year separation, one does not have to file anything to start the one year of separation running.  A spouse can file for divorce as soon as the year is over.  Sometimes, the court may schedule the hearing on the no-fault divorce immediately after the filing.  The divorce cannot be granted until the other spouse is served with the action and has filed an answer.

To obtain a divorce on the ground of adultery, the actual adultery does not have to actually be proven.  Instead one can prove adultery through circumstantial evidence of the opportunity to commit adultery.  Also, circumstantial evidence of romantic inclination can be used to show adultery within a marriage.  Usually, private investigators are used in developing proof of adultery.

Divorce based on the ground of physical cruelty does not need to have the actual proof of physical abuse or injury.  Instead, one needs to prove that the other spouse’s conduct created a great risk of death or serious physical harm.  For example, if your spouse fired a loaded gun and the bullets missed you, this would give rise to a physical cruelty divorce.

In order to get a divorce on the ground of habitual intoxication or drug abuse, one will need to show more than merely that their spouse drinks or takes drugs.  Instead, one will need to prove that this drug or alcohol use is habitual and has caused a major breakdown of the marriage.  Proof of this can often be through medical records for substance abuse, criminal records with convictions related to substance abuse, and employment records.  Also one may use a spouse’s credit or bank records to show the dates and times of money withdrawals for drugs.

The most common defense to any at fault divorce is condonation.  Condonation is a conditional forgiveness, which means that it requires the innocent spouse to acknowledge the at fault conduct and to have decided to remain in the marriage anyway.  For example, if an affair occurred years ago and the cheating spouse no longer commits adulterous acts, then the innocent spouse cannot use adultery as a ground for at fault divorce.  This would only be the case if the innocent spouse did, in fact, know of the adultery and still stayed in the marriage.  If an innocent spouse just recently finds out about an old affair then they could still file for an at fault divorce because they were unaware of the cheating.

One can file for divorce on the grounds of habitual intoxication, adultery, or physical cruelty without being separated from their spouse.  However, when at the temporary hearing, they will have to show the court hard evidence of the fault ground in order to get the court to order the other spouse out of the shared home.  The action for an at fault divorce cannot have the hearing of the divorce until sixty days after the divorce action was filed.  The court cannot issue the divorce decree until ninety days after the filing of the divorce action.

Greenville, SC family law attorney
Family law attorney in Greenville South Carolina

All divorces require evidence that the ground for divorce exists that is independent of both parties of the marriage.  This is known as independent corroboration.  Corroboration can be a third-party witness, and also records can be used to prove fault for grounds for divorce.  These can be criminal records related to domestic violence or drug and alcohol abuse.    

Sometimes a spouse will need the assistance of the court to resolve issues of child support, child custody, alimony, visitation, and property division, but does not have the grounds for divorce.  That spouse may file an action for separate maintenance.  This separate maintenance can help spouses protect themselves financially and resolve child custody and visitation issues during the separation period.

The divorce process of any kind is stressful, and our South Carolina divorce attorneys are here to help you deal with this burden.  The staff at Elliott Frazier law firm are compassionate to you and your family’s needs during this tough time.  We have the skills, legal knowledge, and resources to help you through this complex process.  Our divorce and family law attorneys have dealt with all types of divorce over the years. If you are seeking a divorce or beginning the divorce process please call our office today to speak to a competent South Carolina divorce lawyer for a consultation on your case.

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