To get divorced in South Carolina is a bit trickier than in other states. There are certain conditions which must be met before you can file for divorce.
What must I do if I want to file for divorce in South Carolina?
It is always advisable to call your lawyer first. They will be able to help you with the process. If you do not have a lawyer, there are various good lawyers available in Greenville, SC that will be able to help you.
In Title 20 of the South Carolina State laws the process for the divorce is explained. One of the important things to remember is that when you file for divorce, and you are under 21, you will be seen as over 21. This is done to ensure that all parties have equal right to properties when it is divided. The case will be heard in the court of common pleas. The county in which the case will be heard is determined by where the parties live. If they both reside in different counties than the case will be heard in the county where they last lived as a married couple. If one of the parties is a non-resident in the state, then the case will be heard in the county where the plaintiff lives.
Grounds for divorce in Greenville, South Carolina
South Carolina is an at-fault state. This means that one party must be at fault in order to file for divorce. There are exemptions to this law.
If you wish to file, there are “faults”, of which one has to be met in order to get divorced. These at-faults are as follows:
- Physical cruelty such as physical abuse
- Desertion for a period of one year
- Habitual drunkenness, this includes alcohol and any other narcotic drugs
The filing for divorce when there is no fault can only be achieved if the parties has lived separately and apart without cohabitation for at least one year. Once the partners have lived separated for at least one year, then the divorce proceedings can start.
What process must I follow to file for divorce in SC?
There are certain conditions that must be met in conjunction with the above-mentioned faults. It is important to first determine as to where the divorce must be filed. If there are not property, debts or children in the household, filing for a simple divorce is quite easy. If the partners have lived in South Carolina for more than a year, the divorce can be filed at the court in the county where they have both last lived, or where the defendant lives. If the defendant is from out of state than the divorce can filed in the county where the plaintiff lives. Remember that the plaintiff is the partner that is filling for the divorce and the defendant is the partner that will answer or defend the divorce.
To begin the process, you need to fill out various forms, which include the Family Court Cover Sheet, Certificate of Exemption, Summons of Divorce, Complaint of Divorce and the Financial Declaration form. The Financial Declaration form must be signed in the presence of the notary public, do not sign this form until you are in front of this person.
There are obviously costs involved in filing for divorce, apart from the lawyer fees. The clerk of the court will ask a fee to file the papers. All paperwork must be in three-fold, one copy for yourself, one for the court and one for the other spouse. It sometimes happens that there will be additional fees for the Sherriff to serve the papers. If you are unable to pay the fees you can file a Motion and Affidavit to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. If this motion is granted, you are exempt from paying the fees at the court and for the sheriff. This does not exempt you from paying your attorney.
It is important to keep the copies of all paperwork safe. When you serve or deliver the papers to your spouse, you will need to have a signed Acceptance of Service. This needs to be filed with the clerk of the court as well. If you choose not to serve the papers personally you can send the papers with the US Mail. If you make use of this service, you will need to file additional paperwork with the clerk of the court. This paperwork includes that it is send as certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested. This receipt must be signed by your partner. Then you need to complete and file an Affidavit of Mailing. Remember this must be signed in front of notary. You can also choose to make use of the Sheriff’s office. They will give you an Acceptance of Service which must also be filed with the clerk of court. You can also make use of the private process server, which is a third party that will hand deliver the paperwork to the partner.
After all the paperwork has been filed, there is a waiting period before you can ask for a court date. The waiting period, which is 35 days, start on the day after the papers has been served to the other partner. During this 35 days, the partner has time to file his response or answer. When you have received the answer, then you can proceed with the divorce. If your partner does not agree with your paperwork, then you have a disputed or contested divorce. It is best to hire an attorney at this stage, if you haven’t done so already. However, if your partner agrees with you, then you can file a Request of Hearing and an Affidavit of Default for Divorce with the clerk of the court. Remember to file your partner’s answer with this. The clerk of the court will mail you a Notice of Hearing. On this day, you must be in court. If you have not received any signed response from your partner you must take the unsigned forms with you to court.
During the court proceedings, you will need one witness to testify on your behalf about your marriage and separation. They must also testify that you have been living apart for at least one year. The Final Order of Divorce and the Report of Divorce, must be filled out before the court hearing and then taken along to court. Remember that the judge can ask you questions during the hearing. These questions can range from inquiry regarding the documents to your marriage. When the judge is satisfied that you have adhered to all laws then they will sign the Final Order of Divorce. This is then filed with clerk of the court. It is important to see to it that the judge signs the Final Order of Divorce, as this is the only way officially divorce someone.
When do I need to call my Greenville lawyer?
Filing for divorce in Greenville, South Carolina may sound like a very easy process. However, it is always to better to get an experienced lawyer to help you. You can negotiate the fees with the attorney. Most attorneys offer a case review. This will give you a good idea of how difficult the divorce will be, if you meet all the requirements as well as the costs involved.
Empower yourself with enough knowledge regarding the divorce laws and process in Greenville, South Carolina. However, it is always advisable to retain the services of an experienced divorce attorney, this will prevent you from having regrets later on.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.