The Time Between the Preliminary Hearing & the Final Hearing for Divorce in South Carolina

By Angie Gambone

The divorce process in South Carolina can range anywhere from six to 18 months, from start to finish. No two cases are alike; therefore, the time frame of your case will depend on your particular set of circumstances. If your case is uncontested and you and your spouse have signed an agreement, your divorce will move through the divorce process much faster than a contested case.

Contested Vs. Uncontested Divorces

An uncontested divorce is one in which you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement without the assistance of the court. Sometimes parties reach an agreement even before either spouse files for divorce. Often cases settle in the middle of the process, which shortens the length of time it takes to receive a final decree of divorce. A contested divorce case is one in which you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on some or all of the issues. This type of case usually ends with a trial where a judge makes the final decisions. Contested cases take the longest to complete due to the complexity of the trial process.

Uncontested Divorce Timeline

Typically, in an uncontested divorce proceeding, one party files for divorce and serves the other party with the documents. That party then has 30 days to respond in writing or can waive the 30 days. After a waiver is received, the court typically schedules the uncontested final hearing within seven or eight weeks. For cases that settle in the middle of the divorce process, the parties simply inform the court that they have settled; the court will then schedule the uncontested hearing, which may be set in as little as two weeks. In uncontested cases, there is usually only one final hearing and no preliminary hearing.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Mandatory Waiting Periods

Typically, South Carolina courts will not schedule a final divorce hearing until at least three months have passed from the time the initial complaint for divorce was filed. An exception to this rule is when the parties in an uncontested case have lived separate and apart from one another for at least one year and have a signed settlement agreement. In that case, the court schedules an uncontested hearing within seven to eight weeks.

Preliminary Hearings

South Carolina family courts do not typically use the term "preliminary hearing" in divorce cases, but in some circumstances during a contested divorce, a temporary, or pendente lite, hearing is held. These hearings are usually held within a month or so after the filing of a complaint for divorce. They deal with issues that must be resolved immediately and cannot wait until the entire divorce is over, such as parenting time and child support. The decisions reached by the court during a temporary hearing can be altered when the case settles at a later date or after a trial at the end of the case. Temporary hearings are not meant to provide permanent relief to litigants.

Discovery and Mediation

After the temporary hearing, the court sets a discovery schedule. Discovery is a procedure that allows the parties to request documents from each other and may also include requiring the spouses to answer a series of questions. The discovery process can take anywhere from one to three months, depending on how complicated the issues are. After discovery, the court will sometimes order the parties to participate in a mediation process to try to reach an agreement. Mediation usually occurs over one or two sessions, but preparation for mediation can extend the divorce timeline another month or more.


As a last resort, any contested cases that do not settle will be scheduled for trial. At trial, the judge listens to testimony and reviews evidence to make a decision on each of the contested issues. Trials can be completed in as little as a day or two or last for months. The length of the trial will depend on how complicated your case is, how many witnesses you call and how much evidence you present. A judge cannot always clear the court calendar for weeks at a time to participate in your trial, so it may be spread over a series of weeks with gaps in between. Ultimately, a hotly-contested, complex divorce that must go to trial may take up to two years or more to complete.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How Long Does a Complicated Divorce Take?



Related articles

How Long Does Divorce Take in Michigan if You Have No Children?

Establishing custody and support for a minor child can be a time-consuming aspect of the divorce process. These matters often become highly contested and Michigan law imposes a longer waiting period for divorces if you have children. Otherwise, the time it takes to finalize any divorce generally comes down to how quickly you and your spouse can agree on all issues and reach a settlement.

What Is a Pending Divorce?

A divorce goes through many stages, starting from the first serious issues arising between a couple and terminating in the final divorce decree issued by the court. A pending divorce generally refers to the intermediate stage after the divorce papers have been filed and before the court has issued judgment.

How Long Before a Divorce Is Official in Georgia?

As in other states, Georgia divorces are not official, or final, until a Georgia judge has signed a divorce decree. This is the end of the divorce process and makes the divorce complete. The time it takes to finalize a divorce in Georgia varies, from as little as a month to over a year, depending on the circumstances of your case.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Amount of Time Between a Magistrate's Recommendation and Divorce

Not all states use magistrates to assist in the divorce process. Among those states that do, magistrates are often ...

When Does a Divorce Become Final in Arizona?

Once you decide to file for divorce in Arizona, the amount of time the process takes depends heavily on whether your ...

How Long Does it Take for a Divorce in Kansas

Divorce cases can vary from quick and smooth when spouses agree to long and difficult when they don’t. A Kansas divorce ...

What Happens If an Uncontested Divorce Suddenly Becomes Contested?

The advent of no-fault divorce in every state gives rise to the prevailing concept of the "uncontested divorce" -- a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED