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How to File For Divorce in South Carolina

By way of a divorce, South Carolina spouses can decide to end their union due to factors such as finances, domestic abuse, or infidelity. According to the law, all marriage dissolutions in South Carolina are resolved in the state’s family court. The divorce settlement usually involves parenting time, alimony, asset division, and child support.

While some South Carolina divorces may last for months, others may take more than a year. The factors responsible for how fast or slow a divorce will last include:

  • The divorce filing process
  • The reason for divorce
  • The type of case (uncontested or contested divorce)
  • The docket from the family court
  • How all the parties involved in the divorce case handle it

The person petitioning for a divorce in South Carolina should file the action with a local family court in the state. Judges of the family court have legal authority over divorce and the following issues:

  • Separations
  • Child visitation and custody
  • Child support
  • Alimony and spousal support
  • Division of marital property.

Do I need a Reason for Divorce in South Carolina?

Yes, divorcees in South Carolina must have legal grounds before a court can approve the action. The state operates a no-fault and faults divorce system. The South Carolina legislature in section 20–3–10 names five grounds for divorce: abandonment, physical abuse, habitual drunkenness, adultery, under the fault system. The no-fault factor involves parties that have been living apart for a minimum of one year. Under the fault divorce system, persons may seek a final trial ninety days after the petitioner has filed for divorce.

What constitutes insufficient grounds for Divorce in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, some reasons will not count in court as grounds for divorce. Whether the petitioner is seeking a fault or no-fault divorce, the court will not approve any grounds not included under the South Carolina grounds for divorce section. Below are some grounds considered to be insufficient for divorce in the state:

  • Abandonment not up to a year.
  • Mental abuse
  • When the couple has not lived separately (without cohabitation) for at least 12 months.

Why do I need a Divorce Lawyer?

Spouses that intend to file for divorce should endeavor to hire a seasoned South Carolina divorce attorney to handle the case. A lawyer can assist a petitioner with relevant counsel regarding the state’s divorce laws. If the interested party wants to petition based on multiple fault grounds, it is pertinent to seek an attorney’s assistance to plan for a complicated and lengthy divorce.

Having to prove that the respondent committed the acts can be difficult, but it gets easier with an experienced divorce attorney. To decide on issues such as child custody and alimony, the court might still consider fault grounds, even in a no-fault divorce. This is another reason for an attorney.

How do I Get Started in a Divorce in South Carolina?

Generally, a divorce case begins when the petitioner files for divorce with a family court then duplicates all the necessary documents before serving them to the other spouse. Firstly, the petitioner has to file a complaint and summons. After sending the paperwork to the appropriate family court clerk, that person will serve the divorce papers to the other spouse. This could be done through a process server or a personal delivery. Afterward, the respondent, who is the spouse that receives the divorce papers, will be given 30 days to respond and counterclaim the petition.

If the respondent answers with a counterclaim, the petitioner has 30 days to respond to that counterclaim. Hence it may take as much as 60 days to allow for complaints and any potential counterclaims.

How concerned-parties and their attorneys handle the matter will have a major effect on the divorce length. When either spouse decides to punish the other partner, the divorce process may drag on for over a year.

How to File for Divorce in South Carolina Without a Lawyer?

Persons in South Carolina can file for divorce without a lawyer by obtaining the necessary papers from the appropriate local court clerk. The following forms that will be needed to file the petition are:

  • Divorce summons
  • Divorce complaints
  • Divorce final order
  • Court Cover Sheet
  • Certificate of Exemption
  • Declaration form of finance
  • Acceptance of Service
  • Hearing request

Petitioners should file the divorce papers in their county of residence where the respondent is also located. It could also be done in the other partner’s county of residence at the time of filing or in the area where the petitioner resides (if the spouse does not live in South Carolina). Pursuant to section 20–3–60 of the South Carolina code, if the petitioner is filing in the state but is not a resident there, such a person must file in the spouse’s county.

The South Carolina court has a waiting period of 3 months from the date the petitioner filed the divorce papers to finalize it, as stated in section 20–3–80. After the petitioner has served the other partner the documents and does not respond in 30 days, such a person may proceed with the divorce.

How Does South Carolina Divorce Mediation Work?

To reduce the load of work on the local family courts, South Carolina practices mediation as a means for couples to resolve their differences. The court may order the couple to try mediation before the final hearing. However, concerned persons only are required to do this in good faith. The court does not mandate the couple to reach a full settlement agreement through the system. Either spouse or the mediator can terminate the mediation whenever they want. The aim of the mediator is to help the couple reach a lasting and acceptable divorce settlement. The mediator will record any agreement made by the partners. Then the parties will sign on it before being presented to the court.

How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in South Carolina?

Mediation saves South Carolina couples seeking to divorce, both time and money. According to the South Carolina divorce laws, the family court waits for a minimum of ninety days before the marriage can be dissolved. This period does not include the time the petitioner spent getting the forms and filing them. Divorce in a local family court generally takes a lot of time and money, but the marriage may be dissolved in less time through mediation.

Are Divorce Records Public in South Carolina?

Yes, as stated in the Freedom of Information Act, South Carolina divorce records are open documents accessible in the public domain. The state’s divorce records contain information regarding the court’s final judgment. To obtain the complete statement, requesters can visit the clerk’s office at the family court that handled the divorce case. However, the public records act is not absolute as expunged or sealed records are only obtainable after the court has granted the requester an order to do so.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Get South Carolina Divorce Records?

Interested South Carolina residents can get divorce records through the Department of Health & Environmental Control (SCDHEC). However, the records available are divorce reports from 1962 (July) to 2016 (December). The local court clerk where the case was filed has the full documents regardless of the year. There are four ways by which requesters can apply for a divorce record. These are:

  • Phone or online
  • Mail
  • In-Person
  • Drop-off (available only in Richmond county)

Only record-holders and their children (with former or present spouses) can request the records. Additional documents will be requested depending on the medium being used to access the form. Below are the fees for obtaining a divorce report (other charges may apply)

  • A non-refundable searching fee of $17 (for online requests)
  • A non-refundable searching fee of $12 (for mail-in requests)
  • A non-refundable searching fee of $12 (for in-person requests)
  • A non-refundable searching fee of $12 (for drop-off requests)
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