South Carolina recognizes five grounds for divorce. The first four are referred to as the fault grounds for divorce, and include:
- Desertion for a period of one year;
- Habitual intoxication (involving drugs and/or alcohol; and
- Physical cruelty
If any one of the fault grounds for divorce is met, a spouse can immediately file a divorce petition in the South Carolina family courts.
South Carolina also provides for a “no-fault” divorce, where spouses have simply grown apart through no particular fault of either party. In a no-fault divorce, there is no need to substantiate the grounds for divorce, by digging up dirt on the other spouse and dragging personal business in front of a courtroom. There is a catch though: South Carolina law requires that the spouses wait it out for one year while living separate and apart before they can file for a no-fault divorce.
The One-Year Waiting Period…
The conservative policy upon which the one-year requirement in a no-fault divorce is based is the notion that couples contemplating divorce may be able to reconcile during that time period. However, for many couples, the requirements simply tend to drag out an already painful process.
In response, lawmakers in South Carolina have proposed a constitutional amendment that has been making its way through the state legislature. The amendment would decrease the waiting period for a no-fault divorce from one year to 150 days. The amendment vote passed the House Judiciary Committee 12-11 in early 2014. House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister has been in favor of the bill all along, citing the hardship the one-year separate and apart period causes children who are living in unhealthy and confusing households. As the no-fault divorce has by far become the most common divorce ground in South Carolina, the proposed law would help to improve the experience for all parties involved.
Whether the amendment ultimately will become law in South Carolina remains to be seen. Although you currently have to wait a year after separation before filing for a no-fault divorce, discussing your family’s situation with a family law attorney can help to guide you through that year of living separate and apart. Divorce has many difficult complications, such as property distribution, child custody, child support, visitation rights, alimony, as well as fees associated with court and lawyers. A knowledgeable family law attorney can make recommendations regarding all such issues. Another option particularly suited to the no-fault divorce is mediation, where the settlement of all issues can be reached by mutual agreement between the two parties, facilitated by a neutral third party, and then approved by the court.
Our Attorneys Are Here to Help You
If you are interested in learning more about fault and no-fault divorces in the state of South Carolina, contact our Charleston family law attorneys at Klok Law Firm LLC today. We are here to listen and advise while you make the tough decisions.