Are you a South Carolina resident attempting to get a divorce? What does the process and procedure of divorce in SC look like?

It’s crucial to prepare well for this process. Although we’d like to offer a concrete timeline, that rarely happens during divorce proceedings. Divorces can take anywhere from a few months to well over a year, depending on the circumstances.

Many factors can affect the length of yours. If you and your spouse are having an amicable, contested divorce, it may be a quick process. But if you’re attempting to show fault for anything, you’ll have to go through discovery, a lengthier hearing, and more.

We’ll go through the process of an SC divorce here so that you’re aware of what’s to come!

Filing for Divorce in SC

First, you’ll begin by filing for divorce in South Carolina.

This involves you, the Plaintiff, going to the court and filing a Complaint for Divorce. Once you’ve done this, the courts will inform your spouse, the Defendant, of the Complaint for Divorce.

This process doesn’t take long, exactly, but your spouse has up to 30 days from receiving the Complaint to respond to it. And when they respond, they could file a counter-complaint. This could be for many reasons — they don’t agree with the division of property or assets, or with the child custody agreement. 

If they file a counter-complaint, you’d have up to 30 days to respond to that with an answer.

So, the longest this process can take is usually up to two months. But if you and your spouse already were in agreeance, it could take much less — maybe even a few days. This depends on the grounds for the divorce.

Let’s cover that next.

Grounds for Divorce

When it comes to divorce in SC, there are two types: fault and no-fault.

No-fault divorce means that you and your spouse have already lived separately for a total of one year or 365 days. You’re filing over irreconcilable differences and nothing else. This is the quickest, most straightforward way to file for divorce.

But there are some grounds for divorce where your side may have to prove fault. These grounds include:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Physical cruelty
  • Habitual drunkenness (which also includes routine narcotic use)

There is also currently a proposed bill to add another ground for divorce: willful mistreatment by a spouse that destroys physical or mental happiness or wellbeing, or makes living together safe and/or intolerable.

Sponsors of this new bill say that adding this to the grounds for divorce allows people in dangerous situations to file for divorce and get out faster. 

Why does this matter? Besides the obvious reasons for the safety and health of each individual, it matters for your divorce timeline.

Fault-based divorces allow people to get a divorce within three months, or 90 days, of applying for one. This takes out the year-long process of having to live separately. This may be impossible for some to do — as well as potentially dangerous and harmful. 

As you can see, this part of your divorce could take anywhere from three months to one year. One of the main factors that influence this timeline is whether your divorce is contested or uncontested.

Let’s unpack those terms next.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

You’ll likely know if your divorce is contested or not based on whether it’s a no-fault divorce or not.

If you and your spouse agree on everything — the divorce, the division of property and assets, the financial and/or custody arrangements, alimony — then your divorce is an uncontested one. This means that neither party is arguing against the separation and it can move along smoothly.

contested divorce, however, can be much more difficult to undergo. These involve sometimes-lengthy disputes about anything from child custody and adultery to a person’s drinking or drugging habits. 

Contested, fault-based divorces also deal with something called “discovery.” If you’re involved in something like this, it’s crucial to have a divorce attorney on your side. They can mitigate what is getting learned from you as well as obtain evidence from the other side.

If you’re going through the “discovery” phase of a divorce, you may have to produce financial statements, a notarized list of assets, and/or other documents.

And if you’re going through custody disputes, you may require the aid of a guardian ad litem. When a court appoints this person to investigate custody, the process will take longer by nature.

The Family Law Docket

Of course, once it comes time to have your hearing, you’ll have to go by the local court’s schedule.

If the Family Law docket in your county is jam-packed and you’ve only got a few available judges, your proceedings could take longer. If the schedule has some room in it, you could be in and out quicker — especially with an easy, uncontested divorce.

If you’re filing an uncontested divorce, it’ll be easier to get yourself into the schedule. These proceedings usually only last a half an hour — enough time for the judge to see that everything is already taken care of.

If you’re filing a hearing for a contested divorce, this could take multiple hearings — which will naturally take longer to fit into the docket. 

Good Luck

Now that you know the average look of divorce in SC, you should be better equipped to handle anything that comes your way.

Your divorce could take mere months — if you and your spouse have already been living apart for a year. But it could take much longer — if they fight custody arrangements, the splitting of property, or the like.

That’s why it’s always best to hire an attorney. They can offer you expert advice through the entire procedure while helping to reduce some of the stress that comes along with it. They’ll be careful to avoid mistakes or delays, as well as produce a clear and binding agreement.

We can help. Fill out the Contact Us form on our page for a consultation or give us a call.

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