Divorce in South Carolina, Part 1: Types of Divorce


Now that I’ve come through on the other side of divorce, not once, but twice, I thought it might be time to share with other moms what to expect when facing a divorce in South Carolina.

Divorce is a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. It’s only natural to want to know and learn as much as possible; to have some semblance of control when life spirals so far out of control. Fear of the unknown, uncertainty about the future, and how all of this will affect your life, and the lives of your children; at times it is wholly overwhelming.

Types of Divorce: a gavel lays on a table with the sign "Family Court" behind it.Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this article can not and should not take the place of professional legal advice.

Similarly, because there are so many moving parts, the order in which some of these situations occur may change or may not exist at all. It is such a roller coaster, my memory may even be a bit scattered on the specific order of everything.

That said since every marriage is different and situations and circumstances vary, consulting with an attorney should be your very first step to ensure you have all of your ducks in a row, whether you follow through and opt to use an attorney for your situation or not. It’s also a good idea to know as much as you can about divorce law in South Carolina, before your attorney consultation.

Types of Divorce in South Carolina

Contested vs. Uncontested

If both you and your spouse believe that divorce is the best choice, and you can both agree to everything, then an uncontested divorce may be your best bet. You may not have to hire an attorney if you’re both on the same page about everything.

However, if you’re looking to file an “at fault” divorce (more on that below), you’re going to need to consult with an attorney. Similarly, if you and your spouse cannot agree on all things, you’ve got a contested divorce on your hands and you’ll need to either opt for mediation or seek counsel.

A dictionary page defining the word Divorce is torn in two, with wedding rings piled on top.Note: In South Carolina, every couple is required to attend mandatory mediation after the discovery process has been completed (more on discovery in part two). A large percentage of divorces never go to trial and are settled at mediation, which is significantly more affordable than an actual trial.

Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina

Here in South Carolina, there are just a few grounds for divorce. One falls under “no-fault” while the others fall under “fault.” A no-fault divorce in South Carolina can be granted when the married couple lives separate and apart for one full year, without any overnights or cohabitation during that year.

This can be challenging because, of course, you’ll have to split households and determine which one of you will leave and which one of you will remain in the marital home. Finances and proximity to kids’ schools are just a few of the issues that will need to be worked out.

Types of divorce: A man and woman sit at a table having a discussion.In a case where you’re filing an at-fault divorce, it may be wise to consider obtaining a lawyer because you’ll need to prove the allegations to be granted a divorce on this count. At-fault divorces can be obtained in cases of adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, and abandonment, but again, the burden of proof will be on the plaintiff (that’s you, the person bringing the claim). You’ll need to have good, hard evidence of wrongdoing.

There is a lot of misinformation online about at-fault divorces here in South Carolina; most notably that a divorce on fault grounds can be obtained within 90 days. Be warned this is probably possible in some very distinct cases, but it’s not likely.

After speaking with other moms in South Carolina who were awarded an at-fault divorce, I’ve noticed that nothing usually ever works that quickly in the court system. Plus, there are so many steps, procedures, and moving parts, that you can’t ever really nail down a distinct timeframe.

Getting through the initial first stages — deciding on divorce and how to go about it — is a big first step but unfortunately, it’s only a portion of the equation. Part two of this series will cover the divorce process in South Carolina and what to expect until your divorce is finalized.

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Marie Bentley
Marie is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of four – three adult kids and an 11-year-old  – who, for the last 16 years has made the Lowcountry her home. While her family spends a large portion of the year traveling throughout the country, she's actually quite the homebody. When she's not writing – something she's been doing for almost 30 years– Marie loves getting out and about in Charleston, weaving local history into her youngest' homeschool lessons, and exploring the many resources, sites, museums, and landscapes SC has to offer. One of Marie's bucket list items is to visit/hike each of the 47 state parks. Will this be the year she completes the goal? Marie chronicles all of it on her homeschool blog and YouTube channel.


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