A Guide to Divorce in South Carolina
There are a number of issues that will impact you while going through a divorce in South Carolina.
To get a better idea of what to expect, review the following information and also consider seeking answers from other sources such as attorneys, other online sources, county courthouses, and from friends and relatives who have gone through a divorce and can provide you with their personal perspective.
In this guide, you’ll learn the differences between divorce and legal separation, types of divorce, overview of the process, how much it costs, and a whole lot more.
Here are several important things to know:
- The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in South Carolina?
- Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
- The process of filing for divorce
- How to complete proof of service
- Filing for a divorce online
- Filing for divorce in South Carolina without using a lawyer
- How much does divorce cost in South Carolina?
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
- Should I retain the services of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
- Bifurcation of Marital Status
- Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in South Carolina?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is a divorce certificate?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources
The differences between divorce, annulment and legal separation
In South Carolina, couples can end their marriages through annulment or divorce. Each of these has their own special requirements and rules, and a basic understanding of these options is a good place for you to start.
Legal Separation. When a marriage is no longer working and one spouse moves out of the home, couples may consider themselves separated. While this is physically the case, they are not legally separated, and there is a big difference between the two.
In many states, a legal separation must be granted by the courts, just like a divorce. Custody, asset division, and support issues are worked out, and this eases the bond of marriage without totally severing it. The couple remains married, but in a much more relaxed and distant way.
Annulment. When a couple is granted an annulment, their marriage is considered null and void. Basically, this means that both people can move forward with their lives as if their marriage never happened.
Some people choose this option for religious reasons. For example, the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize divorces and an annulment is the only officially sanctioned way to end a marriage.
In South Carolina, an annulment can be granted if at least one of the following factors are present:
- No cohabitation because the spouses never lived together
- No consummation of the marriage
- Duress when a spouse was threatened or coerced into the marriage
- Fraud when one spouse lied or deceived the other spouse about an essential part of the marriage
- Incest because the spouses are closely blood-related
- Mental incompetence because one spouse did not have the mental competence to consent to the marriage
- Underage when one or both spouses are under the age of 16
Courts are given broad discretion regarding annulment in South Carolina and they may use other information or circumstances to either grant or deny an annulment.
Divorce. Divorce in South Carolina is the permanent end of a marriage. Assuming all requirements are met, the couple will divide assets, resolve child custody and support issues, and other related concerns.
The courts will need to agree on the settlement of these issues before a final decree that permanently and legally separates the couple.
The grounds for divorce in South Carolina
In South Carolina, you can be granted a no-fault divorce when spouses have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a year.
You can also file a fault-based divorce based on the following reasons:
- Desertion for a period of one year
- Physical cruelty
- Habitual drunkenness caused by a narcotic drug
What are your options for divorce?
It is in your best interests to fully understand all of your options when you are thinking about getting a divorce. The path that you ultimately take will be determined by the relationship you have with your spouse.
Deciding whether to pursue an uncontested divorce in South Carolina or attempting to negotiate a settlement through a cooperative effort of some sort could save you a lot time and money, making it easier for you to transition to life as a single person.
Before we get into all the different kinds of divorce, it’s important that you remember something.
All divorces are unique, and therefore you should think hard about your dynamic with your spouse and what your goals for your divorce are before you decide. There is no option that is more valid than any other, it simply depends on your situation.
Okay, let’s get into it:
What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse.
The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids.
Sometimes it’s the only viable option, however. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions. That’s why a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist.
Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
Learn More: I’ve really just scratched the surface on the types of divorce. For a deep dive into the pros and cons of these options, be sure to check out our guide on the types of divorce.
The process of filing for divorce
Gather important information.
To give yourself the best chance at achieving the best possible outcome, you need to be organized and proactive when it comes to pulling together the information you will need.
By doing so, you can ensure your rights are protected while also saving time, money and anxiety for the next steps in your divorce.
Before you jump in to collecting financial information, take the following steps:
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name alone.
- Open a credit card in your name alone.
- Order a free credit report.
- Make a list of all the assets and liabilities that you’re aware of. Include any memberships, reward points, and other perks that may be considered as assets.
Okay, now it’s time to start gathering your information. Here’s a short-list of what you need:
- Tax returns (including W-2’s, K-1’s, and 1099’s) for the last 5 years
- Pay stubs for the last 3 months
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension plan statements
- Grant notice for stock options, RSUs, etc.
- Investment account statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate appraisals
- Deeds to real estate
- Car registration
- Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”)
- Car loan statements
- Social security benefit statement
This is only a partial list. To make the process easier, we’ve created a simple but comprehensive checklist you can access as part of our article The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.
Fill out and file your forms.
Once you have decided what kind of divorce procedure you will follow, the next step is to complete a series of forms that will be submitted to the court to start your official divorce process.
If you work with a lawyer, they will handle the paperwork for you to make sure everything is filled out and submitted properly.
If you decide to complete the forms on your own, you will be able to access the forms you need either online at the South Carolina Judicial Branch website or in person at your local county courthouse. The exact paperwork you need to complete will vary by the circumstances of your individual marriage.
Serve your spouse and complete proof of service.
After you file your papers with the court, you must provide your spouse with a copy of those papers.
A professional process server, a sheriff’s deputy or someone over age 18 can serve the papers on your spouse. They will then need to complete a form and it must be returned to the court documenting the date the proof of service took place.
If you have made several attempts to locate a spouse to serve papers, but they can’t be found, it is possible to complete proof of service by publication. This requires running a notice in a local newspaper for 30 days. If your spouse doesn’t respond to the complaint after that amount of time, the case can still move forward.
Filing for a divorce online
Although there are a number of services that can assist you with completing divorce paperwork online you will still need to file your paperwork in person in the county where you currently reside.
Our favorite resource for a fast and effective online divorce is: 3 Step Divorce.
3 Step Divorce checks all the boxes that make an online divorce worthwhile.
They aim to make it easy – and they certainly deliver.
From step-by-step instructions to unlimited live support, here are just a few of the reasons why 3 Step is our #1 recommended online divorce resource:
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
- Monthly payment options as low as $84/mo
- Initial questionnaire takes less than 1 hour
- Library of free tools and resources
- Unlimited access to support agents by phone or email
- Immediate access to completed forms
- Assurance of 100% court-approval (or your money back!)
3 Step Divorce also boasts the highest customer rating in the industry (4.6 stars based on 1,575 reviews).
You can learn more by reading our 3StepDivorce review.
Better yet, you can Start Your 3 Step Divorce NOW (as low as $84/month).
Filing for divorce without using a lawyer
You can file for divorce in South Carolina without using a lawyer. The vast majority of cases without a lawyer involve uncontested divorces where spouses agree on all terms of the divorce and produce a final settlement agreement as a means of cutting down on legal expenses.
How much does divorce cost in South Carolina?
The filing fee for a divorce, annulment, and separate support and spousal maintenance actions in South Carolina is $150.
There may be other fees you will have to pay as well, such as paying to have your court papers served on your spouse.
In some cases, it may be possible to have the filing fees waived if you qualify.
When you go through the actual divorce process, if you need to retain an experienced divorce attorney, expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500 per hour. You will also need to pay some sort of a retainer up front to start the process.
If you decide to use a mediator or an arbitrator, expect your costs to be somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000, and possibly more. If you go through a contested divorce, your costs could run considerably higher and take well over a year to resolve.
How long does it take to get a divorce in South Carolina?
After paperwork is filed, it takes at least 90 days for a divorce to be final per state law. After the 90-day period, the judge can sign a final Decree of Divorce
How quickly this happens depends on how congested the court’s calendar is, your schedule and your attorneys schedule, and the complexity of the issues in your divorce.
Should I consider using a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
If you are going through a financially complicated divorce, you may need someone who can assist you with an accurate and objective analysis of the financial and tax implications of your decisions.
This will help you make the right decisions now when it comes to reaching a settlement with your spouse. It’s important to get this right from the start – you won’t get a second chance.
While some people with simple situations may only need a family law attorney to help them with this process, many others will benefit from working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and preferably someone who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
Divorce is complicated enough without trying to reach critical decisions when you may not understand all the consequences of your actions. To help you better understand the benefits of working with a divorce financial specialist, take a look at our article What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst? (and why you need one).
Bifurcation of marital status
Bifurcation means that both parties in a divorce can be legally declared as a single person while the issues in their divorce are still being worked out. It does not affect things such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony or other contentious issues that may have stalled or become major sticking points that are keeping the divorce from being finalized.
Although it is legal in South Carolina, bifurcation is rarely granted because it removes the incentive to resolve all the issues in a divorce and it means additional work for the courts because two trials must take place instead of one.
Can I cancel or stop a divorce in South Carolina?
You cannot stop someone from divorcing you in South Carolina. If all of the legal grounds are met, then a spouse can move forward with a divorce no matter how the other spouse feels about it.
If you are a petitioner for divorce in South Carolina, you may be able to file a dismissal that will stop the court case from moving forward. But if you are the defendant, you have no recourse.
What is a divorce decree?
A divorce decree is the court’s final order that terminates a marriage. It provides a summary of the rights and responsibilities of each party, including financial responsibilities and a division of assets.
It also covers child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and other similar issues. Copies of an actual divorce decree can be obtained from the Clerk of the Court in the county where the final divorce was held.
The divorce decree is a legally binding document, and if either party does not meet the requirements and obligations set forth in the decree, the other party can take legal action to correct any deficiencies.
What is a report of divorce?
After a final divorce decree is granted, it is possible to obtain a report of divorce that show basic information such as the names of both spouses and the date and place a divorce was granted, but typically no other information.
A report of divorce can provide proof of divorce for many legal purposes. It can be used when a person wants to change the name on any state issued documents, or as proof that the person legally has the right to get married again.
There are several ways to apply for a Report of Divorce. You can get details here.
Changing Your Name
You will be presented either an option to restore your former name or request a court order for changing names when preparing your divorce forms.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You can choose to receive a separate court order to make your name change official, or you can have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Both of these documents are acceptable for all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
It takes a long time to reach out to each company and figure out what to send where, so we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to cut out the 10+ hours of research and paperwork that follows.
Recommended Divorce Resources
There are a lot of divorce resources that make big claims. We’ve tested a bunch of them. Most fall short. A few stand above the rest.
We’re very excited to share these resources and tools with you. We truly think that they will make a big difference in making your entire divorce process better.
So if you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Online dating
- Co-parenting apps
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- And a whole lot more