In South Carolina, there are five grounds for divorce: separation of the spouses for at least one year (“no fault divorce”); adultery; physical cruelty; habitual drunkenness (alcohol or narcotic drugs); and desertion (must be continuous for one year). The proof needed to allow the Court to grant a divorce on one of these five reasons depends on your circumstances. The lawyer will ask you about your situation and advise you about your case. Testimony from a third party may be required. State law requires that a Family Court Judge make a specific finding that reconciliation is not possible before the Judge can grant a divorce.
In South Carolina, Family Courts handle all marital litigation. The Family Courts decide whether to grant a divorce; issues of custody and support (child support and alimony); and equitable division of marital property. Family Courts can grant a request to allow a person to resume use of a maiden or previous name. Family courts also handle separation actions, which may include: custody; visitation; support; and division of property.
When you and your spouse have separated but do not have grounds for divorce, you can apply to the Court for the right to live separate and apart. This is done through an action for “separate maintenance and support” which is a claim for spousal support. By working together, spouses are often able to decide issues without Court intervention. When such an agreement is reached, the parties have settled their case. When a couple has settled their issues, their lawyers will present the agreement to the Court and request that the Judge approve the agreement. If the Court finds the agreement fair, reasonable and voluntary, then the agreement will become an official Court Order. If the spouses cannot agree on how to divide their marital property, the Family Court will make the decision for them. Marital property usually includes all assets or debts acquired during the marriage, with certain exceptions such as inherited property or gifts from outside the marriage. Your lawyer will advise you on what is considered marital property.
The process begins formally by the service of a Summons and Complaint. The Defendant has 30 days after being served to file a formal written response and to request any other relief. If the parties can settle their case, the Court holds an abbreviated hearing. If the parties cannot settle, then each side can present evidence at a trial to show why the Court should grant the relief wanted. After the trial, the Judge will decide what relief should be given. A temporary hearing will be held if there are any issues that must be decided before the final hearing.
Family Courts in South Carolina also govern adoptions, child support, child visitation, cases involving the Department of Social Services, juvenile criminal matters, and name changes for adults and children. Our Firm routinely assists clients in all of these areas. If you have questions regarding any issues in Family Court, we would be happy to assist you. Please call and schedule a free consultation.