Nothing about getting a divorce is easy. Even in the most amicable divorces, emotions still surface. Anyone going through a divorce will have a lot of questions and want to know what to expect. Many people about to go through a divorce are also quite concerned about the costs.
A Fort Mill divorce lawyer at McKinney, Tucker & Lemel LLC, can help with all of the challenges that come with a divorce. We will explain the process, tell you what to expect and provide the listening ear you need during this challenging time. Above all, we will work hard to protect your rights and interests at every stage.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, you can file either a fault-based divorce or a no-fault divorce. When filing a fault-based divorce, you accuse your spouse of certain misconduct that led to the breakdown of the marriage. You must also prove that accusation in court. The four grounds for a fault-based divorce in the state are:
- Adultery – Spouses are not required to prove that adultery actually happened. They must show only that the other spouse had an inclination, or a desire to cheat, and that the spouse had the opportunity to do so.
- Habitual drunkenness – To establish this ground for fault-based divorce, you must show that the substance abuse occurred at the same time, or close to the time, that the other spouse filed for divorce.
- Physical cruelty – A single assault is enough for a spouse to file for divorce based on physical cruelty. It must be a pattern of physical abuse.
- Abandonment/desertion – One spouse must leave the other for at least one year for this accusation to be used as grounds for divorce. This was once the most common grounds for filing for divorce, but it is one of the least common today.
When you file for a no-fault divorce, spouses must show only that they have been living separate and apart for at least one year. There is no need to file anything with the court when this separation period begins. The spouses simply have to start living apart and, during divorce proceedings, the spouses and witnesses can testify that they have been living separately.
What Does the South Carolina Divorce Process Involve?
The divorce process begins with the plaintiff, or the person filing for divorce, filing a Complaint for Divorce. The plaintiff must serve this complaint on the defendant, or the other spouse, along with the Summons, which states that they must accept and respond to the Complaint. When the defendant answers the Complaint, the defendant can provide a defense to allegations and state his or her own complaints.
If the parties can reach an agreement about child custody, property division, and other terms of the divorce, they can sign a Settlement Agreement. If the two spouses do not agree, they will have to enter into litigation where a judge will make the decisions about the case.
The first stage of litigation is the Motion for Temporary Relief. This hearing does not include live testimony, but both parties can provide written testimony. During this hearing, a judge will make temporary decisions on the terms of the divorce, including custody and property division. These decisions are in place until the divorce is settled or finalized during litigation.
The last stage of divorce is the final hearing, or the merits hearing. Both sides will testify during this part of litigation and will present evidence to prove their case. This hearing can take just a couple of days or several weeks. Once this hearing is over, the divorce will be finalized.
What Are Common Issues in Divorce?
The terms of any divorce are case-specific. Still, some terms commonly arise, including:
- Spousal support – A court will take many factors into consideration when deciding whether to grant spousal support, or alimony, including the financial situation of each party, the standard of living and whether one spouse will remain at home to care for the children.
- Property division – Marital property, or property that was acquired during the marriage, will be divided between the couple. Separate property, or property brought into the marriage, is not subject to property division during a divorce.
- Child custody – A judge will award joint or sole legal custody, which refers to the parent that can make major decisions for the child, as well as physical custody, which refers to where the child will live.
- Child support – Parents in South Carolina are financially responsible for their children. Typically, a judge orders the non-custodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent in order to cover partial expenses for the child.
When advising you on your case, an attorney from McKinney, Tucker & Lemel LLC, will outline all the terms your specific divorce may involve and help you to meet your needs and goals.
What Steps Should You Take Before Filing for Divorce?
You may need to take several steps while going through a divorce in South Carolina. Some of those steps you should initially take include:
- Collect your records, including a prenuptial agreement (if you have one), insurance policies and financial statements.
- Open a post office box that only you will be able to access.
- Open a new bank account.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report and, if possible, open a line of credit in your name or apply for your own credit card.
- Take inventory of all of your possessions.
- Arrange for new housing and child care arrangements, if necessary.
- Remain in the family home.
- Make necessary changes to your estate plan.
- Talk to a lawyer.
All of these steps will help to protect you during the divorce process and, hopefully, allow the process to go as smooth as possible for you and your family.
Get Help from a Fort Mill Divorce Attorney
If you are considering divorce, or if you are already going through one, you our divorce attorneys in Fort Mill can help you. At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel LLC, we are committed to helping families during difficult times by providing exceptional service and skilled legal representation. Contact us today to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys and learn more about how we can assist you.