Unfortunately, each and every state has its own divorce laws. This can pose an obstacle if you are trying to understand how or whether you can get a divorce in South Carolina – the rules for divorce in other states do not matter, if you and your spouse are within the borders of this one. Nevertheless, it can be confusing to keep straight which states require which elements in order for you to formally end your relationship with your spouse.
The Difference Between Fault-Based and No-Fault Divorces
In South Carolina, there are five different grounds for divorce. However, these five grounds can be divided into two categories: Fault-based and no-fault divorces.
Fault-based are, as their name implies, grounds for divorce that are based on your spouse’s conduct. If your spouse has done something in the past that is one of the possible grounds for a fault-based divorce, then you can exercise that option and file divorce papers to start the divorce proceeding.
No-fault divorces, however, are possible in a limited set of circumstances without having to show that your spouse did certain things to necessitate the legal separation. Because there is no proof of inappropriate conduct necessary in a no-fault divorce, they can be initiated and finalized much quicker than fault-based divorces can be.
Four Kinds of Fault-Based Divorces
As mentioned before, there are five different grounds for a divorce in the state of South Carolina. Four of these five grounds are fault-based, requiring your spouse to commit certain types of conduct during your marriage.
- Physical cruelty
One of the grounds for divorce in South Carolina requires that you prove that your spouse was physically cruel to you, during the marriage.
However, a single, isolated incident of physical violence is often not enough to be grounds for divorce under this fault-based category. Instead, there has to be a “course” of violence that makes it unsafe to live with your spouse, or that endangers your “life, limb, or health.” There are, of course, exceptions to this rule – a single act of violence can be the grounds for a divorce if that single act is done under circumstances that make a court believe that it is likely to be done again, or was so extreme that it was life threatening or intentionally caused serious danger.
If there is a “course” of violence, however, not all of it needs to be done to your person – your spouse can be violent to inanimate objects in such a way that can be used as grounds for divorce. For example, breaking the home phone while you are trying to call for help has been deemed a factor in a divorce proceeding on the basis of physical cruelty.
- Habitual drunkenness
Another reason for divorce in South Carolina based on the fault of your spouse is habitual drunkenness.
A key word here is habitual. This does not necessarily have to mean consistent or continual, but merely that your spouse has a habit of getting drunk. This can be satisfied by showing that your spouse drinks every weekend, frequently during the rest of the week, and occasionally in the morning.
In addition to the intake of alcohol, though, for habitual drunkenness to be a grounds for divorce there has to be a causal connection between the drunkenness and the breakdown of the marriage. If your spouse used to drink, but sobered up years before you decided to file for divorce, then it will likely not be considered a valid grounds for the divorce.
Another grounds for a fault-based divorce in South Carolina is adultery on the part of your spouse.
Adultery is often something that is actively hidden by your spouse and his or her paramour. Therefore, it can be incredibly difficult to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he or she actually committed the act.
Because of this difficulty, it is only necessary in South Carolina to show circumstantial evidence of adultery. This requires proof of your spouse’s inclination to commit adultery, as well as an opportunity for them to do so.
An inclination to commit adultery can be proven with things like written evidence of a romantic relationship outside the marriage, such as love letters, texts, or emails that show an interest in someone else. If your spouse has an account on an online dating service, that can also be used as evidence of their inclination to commit adultery, as well.
In addition to their inclination to commit adultery, you have to show that they also had an opportunity to do it, as well. While there are no specific rules on what this entails, the crux of the issue is whether your spouse was alone with the suspected paramour for long enough to commit the sexual act. This can include proof that the two of them were alone in a hotel room together, or statements from their friends or neighbors who saw them together.
The final ground for a fault-based divorce in South Carolina is desertion.
If your spouse chooses to leave you and your family for more than an entire year, you have the option of filing for a divorce against them for their conduct. However, in order for this to be a possibility, your spouse has to have no intent of returning, and you could not have consented to their leaving, in the first place.
How a South Carolina Family Law Attorney Can Help
A fault-based divorce is an incredibly stressful claim to make, because it involves the emotional roller coaster of dealing with someone that you thought would be an important part of your life, and accusing them of committing conduct that ruined your relationship, as well as your future together.
Having a dedicated family law attorney in Greenville on your side throughout this trying time can be a huge benefit to you, not only for the legal knowledge that they bring to the table, but also because of their ability to keep things focused on the long-term goal of your well-being.
Contact the Elliott Frazier Law Firm, LLC if you are interested in pursuing a fault-based divorce against your spouse.
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.