Ending your marriage is never a simple decision. Once you make that hard decision, you’ll have many questions about what next, and regarding your children’s future. You may also want to know how long does a divorce take in South Carolina and move on to the next chapter of your life.
Here at Greenville Family Attorneys, our experienced Greenville divorce attorneys discuss some factors that influence the length of the divorce process. While you can control some factors, others are beyond your control because they’re a matter of South Carolina law.
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What is the Divorce Process in South Carolina?
There are five grounds for divorce in Greenville, South Carolina, including adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, abandonment, and no-fault, which is based on the spouses living separate and apart for at least one year. In South Carolina, mental abuse isn’t a ground for divorce.
Divorce is granted in specific courts, referred to as family courts. Family court judges have jurisdiction over divorce, as well as separation, child support, child custody and parenting time, alimony, and marital property division, including pensions and retirement benefits.
The divorce action can start as a separate case, only requesting a divorce from the other party, once the grounds for divorce are proven. Also, the divorce process can start as part of the action, including separate spousal maintenance and child support. To include the request of divorce as part of the action for separate child support and alimony, spouses must satisfy the separation requirement before filing for divorce. Alternatively, the filing party must prove the fault grounds alleged in the summons and complaint.
The divorce process starts when one spouse, or their family law lawyer, files a summons and complaint, stating the grounds they wish to be divorced from their spouse, and, if applicable, how they wish their marital assets and debts to be divided. If the couple has minor children from the marriage, child custody, parenting time, and child support must be included in the complaint. The spouse who files for divorce case is the plaintiff.
After the divorce petition is filed, the other party (defendant) is personally served with a certified copy of the summons and complaint. If the defendant has hired a divorce lawyer, then their attorney may accept the service of the summons and complaint on their behalf. Then, they have 30 days to file an answer, responding to the allegations made by the plaintiff in the complaint and counterclaim by outlining how they would like the court to address the issues in the divorce case.
In an action for divorce only, there’s only one hearing called a final divorce hearing. The final divorce hearing is scheduled for 15 minutes. Its purpose is to determine if the requirements for divorce on the ground requested have been met. A third party must corroborate the testimony of the spouse claiming that the grounds for divorce have been met.
How Long Does it Take for a Divorce to be Final in SC?
Some divorces in the state of South Carolina take months while others take years to be finalized. The time a divorce takes to be finalized depends on several factors, including the procedure for filing for divorce, the grounds for divorce, if the divorce is contested or uncontested, the family court docket, and how the parties and their attorneys handle the divorce process.
The Procedure for Filing for a Divorce in Greenville, South Carolina
There’s time spent filing for divorce and waiting for your spouse to respond. In South Carolina, the divorce process starts with the filing of summons and complaints. Once the divorce papers are submitted to the clerk of family court, they have to be served to the other party through personal delivery by a process server. Then, the spouse who is served has 30 days to respond and counterclaim.
If the party asserts a counterclaim, the spouse who started the divorce process has 30 days to answer the counterclaim. Thus, not accounting for the time it takes to prepare the summons and complaint, deliver it to the clerk of family court for filing, and serve it to your spouse, it may take two months to allow for the answer to the complaint and an answer to any counterclaim.
The Grounds for Divorce in SC
- Fault grounds, approximately 90 days. If you’re seeking a divorce on fault-based grounds, then you should expect a final hearing (a trial) 90 days after you file for divorce. The fault-based grounds for divorce in South Carolina are adultery, habitual drunkenness, or physical abuse.
- No-fault, approximately 365 days. In South Carolina, the only no-fault divorce ground is one year of continuous separation. This means you can’t file for divorce until you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for one year.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
The time it takes for a divorce to be finalized also depends on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested.
- Uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse agree on all the divorce terms, such as child custody, child support, and marital property distribution, then your divorce is “uncontested.” Usually, uncontested divorces are based on the grounds of one year of living separately and apart. So, the earlier you file the divorce paperwork and get a final hearing date, the sooner you can get divorced. Uncontested divorces take approximately two to three months to be final.
- Contested divorce. Typically, in South Carolina, a contested divorce involves disputes about child custody, visitation, child support, and marital property division. Contested divorces can take a year or more to be finalized. For instance, if you and your spouse disagree on child custody, then the family court will appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate and report back to the South Carolina family court. Unless the court orders the guardian ad litem to complete the investigation within a certain timeframe, then it might take several months for the guardian ad litem to complete the investigation.
The Family Court’s Docket
Whether the family court docket drags depends on where you file for divorce. In South Carolina, some counties have more resident family court judges to hear cases than other counties do. Some counties do a brilliant job than others and keep the family court docket moving along fast. Typically, it takes more time to schedule a day or more of a final hearing in a contested divorce than it takes to schedule an uncontested divorce that takes 15 to 30 minutes in court.
How spouses and their Divorce Lawyers Handle the Divorce
How the spouse and their family law attorneys handle the divorce significantly affects how long it takes for the divorce to be finalized. The more you and your spouse disagree with each other, the more contentious and longer the divorce takes. Often, one party is trying to “punish” the other in family court. Thus, if your spouse uses the divorce for “payback,” then it’s more likely your divorce will drag on for several years. Also, some divorce attorneys are very aggressive and encourage their clients to fight over every detail of the divorce, which can make the divorce drag on.
What is Abandonment in a Marriage in South Carolina?
Abandonment or desertion is living apart for at least one year without the consent of the abandoned spouse and with no appropriate justification. Also, the deserting spouse must not intend to resume living with the abandoned spouse. To file for divorce in Greenville, South Carolina on at-fault grounds of abandonment, the abandoned spouse must prove that their spouse deserted him or her for a period of at least one year.
Contact Our Experienced Greenville Divorce Lawyers for Legal Advice!
At Greenville Family Attorneys, our experienced and knowledgeable South Carolina divorce attorneys focus on providing results for our clients, whether their marriage dissolution is uncontested, highly contested, or somewhere in between. We know each divorce is unique, and what’s important to one client may not apply to another. So, we personalize each case we represent, so you can pursue results that allow you and your children to move on with your lives quickly.
If you’re contemplating divorce and would like to learn how our skilled family law attorneys can protect your rights and interests while pursuing the outcome you deserve, call us today at (864) 475-9393 for a free initial consultation.