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What are South Carolina Divorce Records

Divorce records in the state of South Carolina are documents, files, and any form of media that are recorded, gathered, or issued by public bodies concerning divorces that occur in the state. In South Carolina, there are 7.5 divorces per every 1,000 women over 15 years of age. There are two major ways to end a marriage in South Carolina: annulment or divorce.

An annulment is different from a divorce because it nullifies a marriage as if it never happened and can only be granted under unique conditions like bigamy, duress, incest, underage, and other grounds. On the other hand, a divorce terminates a marriage but still recognizes that it happened.

It should be noted that legal separation is not technically recognized in South Carolina but an alternative to this is obtaining an Order of Separation and Maintenance or Marital Separation Agreement. Moreover, before persons can file for a divorce in South Carolina, one party must have resided in the state for a minimum of one year, or both parties for a minimum of three months.

According to the state code of laws, there are five grounds for obtaining a divorce in South Carolina, four of which are at-fault and one for obtaining a no-fault divorce:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion for at least one year
  • Habitual drunkenness or substance abuse; and
  • Physical cruelty
  • No-fault with uninterrupted separation for at least one year

A divorce is finalized when the judge signs the Final Order of Divorce and the order is filed with the court clerk.

Note: A divorce can be “simple” when it is uncontested and takes a short time to be finalized while complex or contested divorce generally takes longer and may even last for over a year.

How are Divorce Records Generated in South Carolina?

Like vital records or court records, divorce records are information and documents prepared, gathered, or retained by public institutions concerning divorces under their jurisdiction. The information in these records is generated from throughout the divorce process from the moment a complaint or petition was filed to when it gets finalized.

In South Carolina, these are done by both the clerks of the probate and family court where the divorce took place and the Office of Vital Records, SC Department Of Health And Environmental Control. Certified and uncertified copies of divorce records can be obtained from these custodians depending on the date of the divorce, type of records, and if the individuals meet the requirements.

The information contained in a divorce record may include:

  • Names of both parties (suffix, first, last, middle)
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Number of marriage
  • Residence of both parties
  • Place of marriage
  • Date of marriage
  • Type of decree (divorce or annulment)

Information like social security number, race, gender, and grounds of marriage may also be included but will be confidential and can only be accessed by the parties involved in the divorce and other eligible people.

Note: The Office of Vital Records only has records of divorces that happened between July 1962 and December 2016. More recent records can be obtained from the clerks of court in the county where the divorce was finalized.

Are Divorce Records Public in South Carolina?

Yes, most parts of divorce records in South Carolina are open to the public, as prescribed in the state’s Freedom of Information Act. This includes the majority of information gathered during the entire divorce process except for details like social security number, declaration of assets, investigative records, medical certificates or records, and others.

However, certified copies of records, confidential sections, or sealed records can only be obtained by the parties mentioned in the record, close relations, and other authorized personnel.

What are the types of Divorce Records available in South Carolina?

Divorce records in South Carolina may come in three forms: Divorce reports, divorce decrees, and divorce case files. These types of records may be needed for different purposes like for name change, challenging a court decision, changing account details, or for informational purposes. Each type of record varies in the type of details contained and designated custodian. They are:

Divorce certificate: This is also known as a divorce report. It is a document that contains basic details surrounding a divorce like the names and residence of parties, location of marriage, location of divorce, date of marriage and divorce, and so on. A certified copy of this type of record can be used as proof of divorce and other official purposes. Copies can be obtained from either the county court where the divorce was processed and finalized or from the office of vital records for divorces between July 1962 and December 2016.

Divorce decree: Unlike certificates, copies of a divorce decree can only be obtained from the court clerk of the county court where the divorce happened. They contain the court order that grants a divorce as well as the rights and responsibilities of parties involved. For example, alimony, child support, custody and visitation rights, division of property, and other settlements or agreement approved by the judge.

Divorce case records: Like other court records, divorce case records are open to the public. This includes the divorce petition, transcripts of proceedings (pleadings, evidence, and motions), final decree, and any other court action done concerning a divorce. Like decrees, they can be obtained from the county court but like court records, they can also be sealed under certain circumstances.

How Do I Get Divorce Records in South Carolina?

Obtaining divorce record from records custodians and counties may involve different processes but they usually involve the following steps:

Step 1: Determine the type of divorce record required

Before making requests, interested persons who wish to obtain divorce records in South Carolina need to determine the type of records they want to obtain, i.e. certificates, decrees, or case records. The most common type of divorce record is divorce certificate but it all depends on what the individuals want to use the record for and what information should be contained within.

Step 2: Determine the custodian of the divorce records

There are only two major public bodies who can issue a divorce record in South Carolina: the family court and the office of vital records. Determining the custodian depends on the date of the divorce and the type of divorce record required. The office of vital records only has divorce reports or certificates from July 1962 to December 2016. More recent reports or certificates and other types of divorce records can be obtained from the court clerk in the family court where the divorce took place.

If individuals are not certain of where records are kept, the following information might help them streamline the search:

  • Names of the spouses (suffixes, first, middle and last names)
  • The date of the divorce (as narrow as possible)
  • The location of the divorce (county, city, or residence)

With these details, individuals can conduct searches with custodians in the areas the divorce was limited to.

Step 3: Determine record accessibility and availability:

Determining if a record is accessible entails finding out if it is sealed or even if there are some important parts of the records will be confidential or edited of the copy provided. Generally, sealed or confidential records that cannot be viewed by the public still exist and can still be accessed by the individuals who got divorced, direct descendants or close relatives, and legal representatives.

On the other hand, determining a record’s availability has to do with the available means of getting the records i.e. online, in-person, through mails, or otherwise. The individual should also choose the means that provides the best benefits or quality experience.

Note: Court and law enforcement personnel can also obtain records, in due process of the law

Step 4: Contact the Custodian

Custodians can be contacted in person, online, via mail, or phone calls. Research requests or request to obtain copies of a divorce record may involve the following:

  • Oral request
  • Filing and submitting forms through mail or online
  • Presenting original or photocopy of valid identification
  • Wait for response
  • Paying fees
  • Obtain records

Note: Custodians can charge fees in advance

Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in South Carolina?

In agreement with South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act, anyone can view, inspect, or obtain copies of a divorce record. However, sealed records, certified copies, and confidential information can only be viewed by the following people:

  • The individuals mentioned in the records
  • The direct descendants or close relatives of these individuals
  • Legal representatives of eligible individuals
  • Enforcement agencies
  • Court personnel

Are South Carolina Divorce Records Available Online?

There is no central database for divorce records provided by public bodies in South Carolina. However, searches for divorce records can be done on the court websites and search requests can be done by the office of vital records for a price. Lastly, searches can also be done by third-party websites.

Note: Information obtained through these channels may not be complete and accuracy may not be guaranteed.

How Do I Seal My Divorce Records in South Carolina?

The process for sealing records in South Carolina may involve the following:

  • Determine if the divorce is eligible for sealing or portions that need to be sealed
  • Gather reasons why disclosure of the record will be harmful to the parties or in the best interest to the public
  • File a motion for sealing at the family court were the divorce was heard
  • Present the case in court
  • Get the judge’s decision
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