How to File a Divorce in South Carolina

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

How to File a Divorce in South Carolina

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

To start the divorce process in South Carolina, you'll need to file a summons and complaint in family court. You must meet South Carolina's residency requirements. And, if you're asking for a no-fault divorce, you and your ex must have lived separately for at least a year before you can file divorce papers.

judges gavel on divorce papers

Grounds for a South Carolina Divorce

South Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, which means you can get a divorce without having to prove that your spouse did something wrong. However, you cannot file for a no-fault divorce until you and your spouse have lived separately for 365 days in a row.

You can also file for a fault-based divorce on one of these grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion for a year or more
  • Habitual drug or alcohol use
  • Physical abuse

You don't have to live apart for any specific time period to file a fault-based divorce.

The Divorce Process in South Carolina

Every state has rules about who can file for divorce. In South Carolina, either you or your spouse must be a state resident. If you both live in South Carolina, you can file for divorce if you've both been residents for least three months. But if only one of you lives in South Carolina, you must have been a resident for a year.

The South Carolina divorce process begins with filing a summons and complaint with the family court. DIY South Carolina divorce forms are available from the state court website. Or you can prepare divorce forms online. The person who files for divorce is the plaintiff in the divorce case and their spouse is the defendant.

If you live in South Carolina, you can file divorce papers in the:

  • County where the defendant lives
  • County where you live if the defendant isn't a South Carolina resident or can't be located
  • County where the two of you last lived together

If you aren't a South Carolina resident, you can only file a South Carolina divorce in the county where the defendant lives.

You can expect to pay a $150 filing fee or, if you can't afford the fee, you can apply to have the fee waived.

After you file your divorce papers, you must “serve" them on your spouse. This gives your spouse formal notice that you've filed for divorce, and it starts the clock running on your spouse's deadline to respond to your papers. You can serve your spouse in one of several ways, including sending the divorce papers by certified mail or having the sheriff's office or a process server deliver them personally.

South Carolina Laws on Property Division

Splitting up marital property and debts is an issue in almost every divorce. In general, anything you earned or bought while you were married is marital property. This includes bank and retirement accounts, real estate, cars, and personal possessions. Things you owned before your marriage, or inheritances you received, are not marital property.

Under South Carolina law, marital property should be divided equitably. This means the division should be fair. It does not necessarily mean everything will be split equally. Judges can consider a long list of factors when they divide property in a divorce. These factors include things like the length of the marriage, your ages and health, your earning potential, and tax consequences.

How Long Does a Divorce Take in South Carolina?

Once divorce papers are filed, the length of the divorce process depends on whether the divorce is contested or no-fault. For example:

  • An uncontested, no-fault divorce (sometimes called a simplified divorce) can usually be final within a couple of months.
  • An uncontested, fault-based divorce cannot be finalized until at least 90 days after divorce papers are filed.
  • A contested divorce often takes a year or more.

In an uncontested divorce in South Carolina, the parties agree on everything, including child custody and support, alimony, and the division of property and debts. In a contested divorce, the parties disagree about one or more of these issues.

Be careful about rushing into an agreement just to get your divorce over with. Get outside help as needed from lawyers, accountants, and a mediator to help you make wise decisions that you'll be able to live with over the long haul. Then you can confidently put your divorce behind you and focus on the rest of your life.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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