It is never easy to decide that you will end your marriage. Once you make that difficult decision, you will have many questions about what comes next for you and, perhaps, your children as well. You may especially want to know how long it will take for you to get through the divorce process and move on to the next stage in your life.
Here, our experienced Rock Hill divorce lawyers discuss some factors that contribute to the length of the process. You can control some of these factors. However, many other factors are beyond your control because, for instance, they are a matter of South Carolina law.
Preparation for Divorce
For the most part, you can control this factor. Once you decide to get a divorce, you should start to prepare for it as early as possible. Some of the basic steps you should take include:
- Meet with a lawyer. An experienced divorce lawyer can provide guidance early in the process that will help you to get through your divorce as smoothly and efficiently as possible. At the same time, the lawyer will pay close attention to your needs and goals.
- Compile your financial information. You should gather as much information as you can about you and your spouse’s income and expenses. For instance, you should collect and store copies of pay stubs, tax returns and documents related to any stocks, retirement accounts or pension plans. You should also track how much you spend on a monthly basis for housing, food, transportation, your children’s education and other items.
- Make an inventory of your property. You should also list the property that you own either separately or with your spouse such as your home, land, vehicles, furniture, jewelry and other household items. At this point, don’t leave anything out.
- Establish new accounts. If you hold any joint accounts with your spouse such as a checking account, you should prepare for your divorce by opening a separate account in your name. This will be important if you go through a separation period before your divorce becomes final.
- Make living arrangements. If you plan to leave the marital home, you should set a budget for yourself and decide where your budget will allow you to live.
- Focus on your children. If you have minor children, you should focus on the custody arrangement that you believe will be in their best interest. You may also need to give teachers, daycare providers, coaches and others a heads-up about who will be dropping off and/or picking up the children.
Again, you largely control this factor. If you prepare for divorce in a timely manner, it should allow you to get through the process much sooner.
Grounds for Divorce
First, you must determine whether you or your spouse meet the residency requirement in order to file for a divorce in South Carolina. To meet this requirement:
- You or your spouse must have resided in South Carolina for least one year before you file for the divorce; or
- You and your spouse must have both resided in the state for at least three months before you file for the divorce.
Once you determine whether you are eligible to file for a divorce in South Carolina, you must consider the grounds that you will cite for the divorce. The grounds that you cite will factor into how long it takes for your divorce to be final. Under South Carolina law, you can cite two types of grounds:
- No-fault – Under South Carolina law, you can obtain a divorce without having to show that the other spouse was at fault. If you intend to file for a no-fault divorce, you must establish that you and your spouse have lived continuously and physically “separate and apart” for a period of one full year. So, if you cite this ground for your divorce, then regardless of when you file for your divorce, it will not be final until at least this one-year period has passed.
- Fault-based – You can cite four grounds for a fault-based divorce in South Carolina: Adultery, physical cruelty, desertion for one year and habitual drunkenness. If you cite this ground, then at least 90 days must pass before you can schedule a hearing and finalize the divorce.
In addition to these mandatory time periods, you also have to factor in the docket of the Family Court in the county where you file for divorce. For instance, if you file for a fault-based divorce, and 90 days pass, you may still need to wait a few more weeks until you get a hearing date.
Uncontested or Contested Divorce?
The length of time it takes to finalize a divorce often comes down to whether the divorce is contested. Ideally, the divorce will be “uncontested.” In other words, you and your spouse will amicably and peacefully reach an agreement on important issues such as:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Division of property.
In some instances, it may be necessary to reach an agreement through the use of a mediator. The mediator is a neutral figure who can go back-and-forth between you and your spouse and help you to find common ground.
However, for a variety of reasons, a divorce may be “contested.” Instead of reaching an agreement, you and your spouse may need to go to court and ask a judge to decide the above matters. Of course, a contested divorce will take significantly more time to finalize than an uncontested one.
Our Rock Hill Divorce Lawyers Can Help You
For more than 45 years, the Rock Hill family law attorneys of McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LCC, have helped people just like you who are seeking a divorce in South Carolina. We know the ins-and-outs of South Carolina family law. We can guide you through the process and seek the best possible outcome for you and your family. To discuss how we can help you, call or reach us online today and allow us to provide a confidential consultation.
Ed Anderson is a Tennessee native who came to South Carolina to attend Furman University – and liked the state so much that he decided to stay here to pursue his legal career. After he earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law, Ed joined McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, in 2017, where he focuses on family law and personal injury law. In addition to his law practice, Ed is an active member of the South Carolina Bar’s Young Lawyers Division.