How Fast Can I Get A Divorce in South Carolina?

People often think in South Carolina that they have to live in separate homes for 1 year before they can get a divorce. While this is simply not true, for all practical purposes is entirely accurate!

When someone asks me: how fast can I get a divorce in South Carolina, my response is almost always- it depends! Only people requesting a divorce based upon the grounds of one years continuous separation need wait one year. A divorce based upon the grounds of Adultery, Physical Cruelty, Habitual Drunkenness and Drug Abuse can be granted in as little as 90 days.

The question then becomes what happens if there is no evidence of Adultery, Physical Cruelty, Habitual Drunkenness and Drug Abuse, and husband and wife have only been separated for 3 months? Can they get a divorce?

Without Adultery, Physical Cruelty, Habitual Drunkenness and Drug Abuse, which in South Carolina are statutory grounds for legal fault, the only remaining possibility for divorce is one years continuous separation. But all is not lost! People who desire to end their marriage and resolve all issues in less than one year can do so. They simply need to come to an agreement on all issues between them and ask the Family Court to approve the agreement and make it the final order of the court.

If this is done correctly, the parties can permanently resolve all issues between them; property division, child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, etc. This will be a permanent resolution of all property issues and can never be re-litigated by either party. All issues regarding children can always be reviewed but there must be a showing of a substantial change of circumstances affecting the welfare of the children.

Also issues involving the payment of periodic (permanent) alimony can also be revisited upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstances. I have found that a change in circumstances must be in the order of a 20% or greater change in income, either up or down.

A substantial change in circumstances regarding custody will turn on the best  interests of the child. Cases where a person has prevailed will usually involve the custodial parent being arrested for use/ or using illegal drugs, a child failing in school with repeated unexcused absences, a live in boyfriend or girlfriend, or repeated exposure of the child to immoral behavior.

The seriousness of the allegations being used to support a change in custody will turn on the best interests of the children. This is problematic as South Carolina does not define what is exactly in a child’s “best interests”. Without the custodial parent agreeing to modify custody, a request to change custody will be left up to the discretion of a judge with input from the Guardian ad Litem who will bring to bear their own standards of morality and decency on a “best interests” determination. Not a gamble many people want to take.

So in answering the question “how fast can I get a divorce”, couples desiring to separate and end their marriage can resolve all issues between them in less than one year, except the issue of the divorce. In other words, once a couple is no longer living under the same roof, they can make an agreement that the court will approve which will permanently resolve all property issues and resolve all custody and child support issues. One year from the date of separation, either or both parties can simply go back to court for a 15 minute hearing to resolve the final remaining issue, the issue of the marriage.

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