Greenville Family Attorneys ardently supports marriage and relationship equality. Regardless of gender or sexual orientation, we believe in everyone’s right to exceptional legal representation.
LGBT family law continues to change drastically, both federally and in South Carolina. Our Greenville LGBT family law attorneys are dedicated to remaining up-to-date and knowledgeable with the evolving nature of the law, and we proudly serve the LGBT community throughout South Carolina. Call us today at (864) 475-9393, or chat with us online for a free consultation.
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Why Do I Need A Greenville LGBT Family Lawyer?
There are many unique same-sex family issues that may require the help of an attorney. These include:
- Child adoption
- Child custody issues from previous relationships or marriages
- Surrogate or egg donor issues
- Visitation rights
Also, if you’re looking to create a prenuptial agreement or a marital agreement, you may need a family law attorney to help you create these documents. You might need to discuss your options with an attorney before you get married to protect your rights in the event of a divorce.
Is Same-Sex Divorce Allowed in South Carolina?
For many years, South Carolina didn’t recognize same-sex marriages and ultimately same-sex divorces. This caused problems among couples who were legally married outside the state who then moved to South Carolina. For example, a couple from Massachusetts who were legally married in the state would find themselves stuck in an illegal marriage if they decide to move to Greenville, South Carolina. This lead to real problems for same-sex couples, who were able to marry in other states, but couldn’t divorce if they moved to South Carolina.
In South Carolina, same-sex couples would get around this problem by separating and failing to pursue a divorce necessary to end their marriage and divide property legally. This led to many problems. Alternatively, same-sex couples would have to move to a state that recognized same-sex marriages and would thus pursue a divorce. This is obviously costly and time-consuming.
However, thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling, today, same-sex divorce is much easier. Today, same-sex couples can file for divorce just like other couples in South Carolina by following the same rules as everyone else. There’s no need to stay trapped in a terrible marriage or move to another state to get a divorce.
Who Can File for Same-Sex Divorce in South Carolina?
According to South Carolina laws, to file for divorce, whether you’re in same-sex or traditional marriage, you must be a resident of the state for at least one year before filing the paperwork if your spouse is a non-resident. If the plaintiff is a non-resident, then the defendant must have lived in South Carolina for at least one year before filing for the divorce. However, if both parties are residents of South Carolina, then the plaintiff only needs to have lived in the state for three months before filing for a divorce.
The same-sex divorce takes place in the county where the defendant lives or the county where the plaintiff lives, if the defendant lives outside South Carolina or the county where the parties last lived together. The only exception is if the plaintiff is a nonresident, in this case, the divorce takes place in the county where the defendant lives.
How Does Property Division Work in Same-Sex Divorce?
Property division in same-sex divorce works the same way it does in opposite-sex divorces. Although the treatment is the same before the law, this doesn’t make same-sex divorce less complicated or confusing. Same-sex couples going through a divorce must file financial disclosure of assets and listing of debts and valuable items. Depending on this, then couples must reach a fair division of assets.
Although equitable division tries to divide marital property fairly, this division isn’t always 50/50. Personal property, bank accounts, bonds, stocks, retirement accounts, and real estate all are divided. As with opposite-sex couples, the person who keeps the house must afford to buy out their partner’s interests in the home, and they must also continue to maintain the house alone after the divorce.
How Does Alimony Work in Same-Sex Divorce?
Since same-sex marriage is new in South Carolina, courts haven’t dealt with issues of alimony in same-sex divorces yet. But trends that exist in opposite-sex divorces will probably apply equally in same-sex divorce cases. In recent years, judges and juries are more inclined to limit the amount and duration of alimony awards to encourage spouses to find work and support their needs.
Alimony is usually awarded in cases of lengthy marriages where one spouse gave up their career to either care for the children or look after their home. This sacrifice is deemed as deserving of compensation and alimony is used to recover the compensation. Just like with opposite-sex divorce, alimony is unlikely to be awarded in short-term same-sex marriages. To win a claim for alimony, you must show that you depended on your spouse’s income and you won’t be able to support yourself after a divorce. Even then, the court may limit the duration of alimony to a short period to allow you to get an education or look for a job before stopping spousal support.
Adoption Laws in South Carolina
According to Title 63 of the South Carolina Children’s Code, section 63-9-60 of the South Carolina Adoption Act states that any residents who want to adopt a child may petition the court to do so. As there are no requirements regarding being in a marital union or defining a union, any person or couple wishing to adopt a child is subject to the same regulations as listed in Section 63-9-520 of the Adoption Act. However, before adoption, the court will perform background checks and it will seek information through adoption pre-placement investigations to determine if placing a child with the potential adoptive parents is in the child’s best interests.
This investigation establishes if:
- The home is fit for the child.
- The emotional maturity, finances, health, and relationships of adoptive parents allow them to accept, provide for, and nurture the child.
- Adoptive parents have been involved in child abuse, neglect, or child delinquency proceedings.
Also, the investigation centers on the child, based on their race, age, and gender, whether the child wishes to be adopted, and the reason for the child’s separation from their biological parents.
How Does Child Custody Work in Same-Sex Divorce?
Child custody matters are one area same-sex couples experience a lot of frustration. Although the same rules apply across the broad; legal issues that arise from adoption and surrogacy complicate same-sex custody arrangements, which is different for opposite-sex couples and their biological children.
When both Parties are Legal Parents
This is the easiest scenario, and it resembles what happens to opposite-sex couples in South Carolina. If children are born into a marriage where both biological or non-biological have parental rights or where both parties jointly adopt a child, things are much easier. In these scenarios, both parents have equal rights to see and visit their child. Any disputes related to children are handled the same way as in opposite-sex divorces. Also, judges must consider competing claims between the parents with the best interests of the child. Before the law, parents with legal rights are equal, but sadly this isn’t always the case.
When One Party is a Legal Parent
If only one party is the legal parent, this complicates the situation. This happens when only one person in the same-sex marriage is the biological parent or if only one party adopted the child initially. In states that don’t recognize second-parent adoption, it’s difficult for the non-legal parent to assert a custody claim. Most states assume second parents have no rights when it comes to the child. This means the court won’t consider any claims for legal or physical custody. Often, visitation rights are also off the table.
For custody issues, it’s crucial for same-sex couples to seek the advice of an experienced South Carolina LGBT family attorney. The rules may be complex for adoption and second-parent rights. Failure to seek legal advice early can be devastating, as you may never secure proper legal rights and you could lose contact with a child you considered your own.
How Does Child Support Work for Same-Sex Couples in South Carolina?
Whether child support is an issue in a same-sex divorce depends entirely on whether both parties are recognized as legal parents. If so, child support is paid the same way as in opposite-sex divorces. Using the South Carolina Department of Social Services calculator, plug your incomes and expenses to determine who should pay what.
However, if only one party is the legal parent, then the other party won’t have financial responsibility for the child. This means the non-legal parent won’t have to contribute money for child support because the child isn’t legally their own.
Need help from a LGBT Family Law Attorney?
No matter which family law issue you’re trying to address, the LGBT family law attorneys at Greenville Family Attorneys will help you with your family law issues. We provide professional legal services to the LGBT community in Greenville, South Carolina, and throughout South Carolina. You can depend on our team of dedicated LGBT family attorneys for accurate and sophisticated representation on any matter regarding your family. Our team of professional and experienced family law attorneys will protect your rights and those of your family.
Need to discuss family law issues? Contact us today at (864) 475-9393, or chat with us online for a free case evaluation.