How to Prepare for a Divorce in South Carolina
Divorce is a major disruption in anyone’s life, regardless of their social or financial standing. Filing for divorce has never been easier, though. The state has facilitated the dissolution of marriage, making it possible to have a fast and inexpensive divorce if the spouses can agree on the terms. Let’s explore the divorce process in South Carolina in greater detail.
Legal Support: With or Without an Attorney
Before finding out how to prepare for a divorce in South Carolina, each spouse contemplating this life-changing step needs to see what resources they have available to them. The easiest way to deal with a divorce is to hire a lawyer who will do all the legwork. Then the petitioner will just sign the documents and pay a hefty bill, thus saving their time but not their money.
The cheapest option is a do-it-yourself divorce where spouses file the divorce forms and represent themselves in the court on their own. They may limit their budget mainly to filing fees, but they’ll invest a lot of time getting familiar with South Carolina Family Law and learning the steps of the divorce process.
The most affordable and optimal option in terms of time and expenses is having a DIY divorce with the assistance of web divorce companies. The couple can have their divorce papers prepared and completed error-free by an online divorce documents preparation service.
Contested Divorce vs. Uncontested Divorce
A contested divorce means that one party disagrees with something related to the divorce, such as the fact of getting a divorce, any of the terms of the divorce (child custody, child support, alimony, or property division), or grounds for divorce.
A contested divorce usually takes longer and requires a lawyer for each party since each point of disagreement should be investigated and reported back to the court, requiring evidence to be gathered, depositions to be arranged, and testimonies to be evaluated.
In contrast, an uncontested divorce occurs when both parties agree to the terms. Then the timeline of their divorce moves unhampered according to the workload of the judge. Refusal to contest does not imply, however, agreeing to unfavorable terms.
Spouses can mediate their disagreements or hire an expert, depending on the issues at hand (custody, support, or property). The main difference between qualifying a divorce as contested or uncontested is whether the spouses want to take their case to trial or sort out their disagreements outside the courtroom.
Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina
Whether the divorce is contested or uncontested determines what grounds for divorce are better to choose and how long it will take. In South Carolina, grounds for divorce include four fault-based reasons: adultery, physical abuse, habitual drunkenness/drug use, or abandonment. None of the fault-based grounds require a waiting period. Once the petitioner realizes the ground for divorce, they can file for divorce immediately.
If the couple opts for a no-fault divorce, they need to prove their willingness to dissolve their marriage by having a one-year continuous separation.
4 Steps to Take to Divorce in South Carolina
Once the divorcing couple makes up their mind about the ground for divorce and what type of divorce they are ready to have, they can apply for divorce at the local courthouse. Also, either party must meet the residency requirements: if one spouse is a non-resident, the other spouse must have lived in the state for at least one year before filing the paperwork; if both spouses are residents, only a three-month residency in South Carolina is required.
Step 1. Prepare the forms. All the divorce forms can be accessed on the South Carolina Judicial Branch website in the section Self-Represented Litigant Simple Divorce Packets or at the local courthouse. The petitioner (referred to as Plaintiff in South Carolina) fills out the forms and signs them in the presence of a notary. To make sure that all the forms are completed correctly, the petitioner can prepare their application for divorce online by using internet divorce services. All the forms should come in two copies.
Step 2. File the paperwork. The petitioner brings all the required and notarized forms to the court in the county where either party lives and files them with the court clerk. Having paid filing fees, the petitioner leaves the original with the court, takes one copy for himself or herself, and delivers the other copy to the other spouse.
Step 3. Serve the respondent. The spouse who files for divorce cannot personally hand over the divorce papers to the other spouse. Instead, the filing spouse should either hire a sheriff or private process server to serve their spouse or mail the documents via any mail service that ensures delivery and provides a return receipt. In South Carolina, the responding spouse has 35 days to file an answer. If the respondent fails to respond or answers by agreeing to all the petitioner’s terms, the divorce case proceeds uncontested. Otherwise, the case goes to trial.
Step 4. Get ready for a final hearing. If both spouses have no disputes or disagreements, they can request a date for a final hearing. They file a Request and other forms (Return Receipt, Settlement Agreement, Affidavit of Service by Mail, etc.). The petitioner brings a completed Final Order of Divorce and a Report of Divorce for the judge to sign at the hearing. After the judge asks the spouses about the terms of their divorce, the length of their separation, and reviews the paperwork, the divorce can be finalized and filed with the clerk of court.
Simple Divorce in South Carolina
As one can see from the divorce proceeding described above, it is rather streamlined and uncomplicated. Legally, it is up to the spouses to have a relatively quick and easy divorce if they can agree on the terms.
Let’s quickly sum up the conditions for a simple divorce in South Carolina:
- The spouses have lived separate and apart for one continuous year before getting a divorce
- The couple has no marital property or marital debt, OR they agree on the distribution of marital assets and spousal support, and
- The couple have no children together, OR they agree on the terms of custody, visitation, and child support
How Does Online Divorce in South Carolina Work?
To complete divorce online means to fill out all the paperwork for divorce over the Internet. To use online divorce paperwork preparation services, divorcing spouses first answer the questions about their family composition, custody arrangement, etc., then provide basic personal and financial information on the service’s website.
Based on that, the web divorce company provides completed state-specific forms and detailed filing instructions. Preparing divorce forms online significantly reduces the cost of divorce in South Carolina.