How Much Does a Divorce Cost in South Carolina?

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Among the questions that divorcing spouses have is how much a divorce costs. Many fear long, drawn-out litigation that can take months, rack up considerable legal fees, and create added stress. While it’s not possible to predict exactly how much your divorce will cost, you have the right to understand the factors that affect the expense. Greenville, SC family law attorney Angela Frazier is here to guide you.

Filing Fees and the Cost of Divorce in South Carolina

The major fees and costs associated with South Carolina divorces include the following:

  • Filing and court fees: The filing fee for a divorce petition is $150, which can be waived for financial hardship. There are other court fees like temporary hearing costs.
  • Service fees: Your court papers must be served on the defendant spouse. There are various ways to accomplish service, some of which (e.g. private process server) will charge a fee.
  • Attorney’s fees: Most attorneys charge by the hour, so longer divorce cases translate to higher fees. Attorneys generally work off of retainers, which must be replenished as funds are used to pay for the attorney’s legal work.
  • Professional fees: Professionals are often called to testify in court as expert witnesses or participate in collaborative divorce; for example, a forensic accountant to look for hidden assets and income.
  • Mediation: If the case is mediated (discussed more below), the mediator will need to be paid. Attorneys will charge for their participation in mediation.
  • Guardian ad litem (GAL): The court may appoint a GAL to investigate custody matters involving the child. This will trigger another set of fees, which is usually split 50/50 between the parents.
  • Court reporter: If a deposition is taken, a court reporter must be present to transcribe everything spoken by the lawyers and witnesses. The reporter will charge for the time spent at the deposition and to prepare a transcript.

Research shows that divorcing spouses should expect to pay between $4,000 and $28,000 for their divorce, with the average attorney’s fees being $10,000. The same research concludes that the average cost of uncontested divorce in South Carolina is $12,600. If the spouses have children, the cost increases to approximately $18,900. Divorces with spousal support issues average approximately $17,400, while those with property division cost around $17,700.

Uncontested Vs. Contested Divorces

One major factor that influences the cost of divorce is whether it is uncontested or contested. An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties agree on everything or nearly everything, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and marital property division. These divorces are the product of mediation or collaborative processes in which the spouses agree to resolve their differences amicably by way of a separation agreement. The court is only involved when the separation agreement needs to be approved by the judge and when the actual dissolution of the marriage (the divorce itself) is ordered.

Conversely, a contested divorce is one in which the spouses agree on little or nothing about the divorce issues. They may have attempted mediation or collaborative divorce, only to see it fail.

In many of these cases, the parties start off in an antagonistic relationship that hinders them from negotiating. Contested divorces tend to require more involvement by attorneys, courts, professionals, and mediators. In particularly hostile divorces, spouses waste time arguing with each other or find ways to unnecessarily drive up costs (e.g. violating court orders resulting in contempt hearings).

Fault in Divorce

Spouses often choose no-fault divorces, which are based on the one-year separation of the parties. But South Carolina still has fault-based divorces, which are based on one of the following grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Habitual drug or alcohol use
  • Physical cruelty and abuse
  • Desertion for one year

Although fault-based divorces do not require the one-year separation period that no-fault divorces do, they usually trigger more contentious proceedings between the spouses, translating to higher costs.

How Mandatory Mediation and the “365-Day Rule” Affect the Cost of Divorce in South Carolina

South Carolina family court cases are subject to mandatory mediation. This is an out-of-court process by which a neutral third party, known as a mediator, helps the spouses settle the various issues arising out of their divorce. Mediation can save the parties substantial time and money by avoiding protracted litigation and court proceedings. However, the mediator is paid for his or her services. Your lawyer will also charge for representing you during mediation.

There is also a 365-Day Rule that requires family cases to be resolved within 365 days, if possible. Mediation must be attempted before spouses can ask the court to schedule a contested divorce trial. To avoid having your case dismissed, a trial request must be submitted within 365 days of the initial divorce filing. While the 365 days can be seen as a time (and, therefore, financial) limit on the divorce, it may also result in the spouses taking more time and spending more money in their proceedings.

Other Factors That Affect the Cost of Divorce

The following are some additional factors that may impact the cost of your divorce:

  • Complex and high-value assets: When spouses have to divide family businesses, artwork collections, unusual retirement plans, and complicated investments, professional valuations are usually necessary. More attorney involvement can be expected.
  • High-conflict divorces: These come in various forms, such as spouses who refuse to communicate with each other or fight over details of the divorce. Allegations of domestic violence also tend to increase the time and money involved.
  • Divorces with children: Child custody is arguably the most emotional aspect of divorce, and it often translates to higher divorce costs. Parents may disagree over what is best for their children or there could be claims of child abuse, either of which lead to more expenses.

A Divorce Lawyer at Elliott Frazier Law Can Help

Every family case is different, and there is no exhaustive list of the factors that can impact the cost of divorce. However, our commitment at Elliott Frazier — Family, Personal Injury, & Car Accident Attorneys, LLC is to resolve your divorce to your satisfaction and as expeditiously as possible. To learn more about how much a divorce costs in South Carolina, connect with our team today.

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