During the breakup of a marriage and prior to filing for divorce, couples often inquire about whether a legal separation is an option. While not specifically recognized under South Carolina law, there are several tools our family law attorneys can use to help protect your legal rights and interests when living separate and apart from your spouse before divorce proceedings are initiated.
A separation agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines issues that may be of concern during your separation. These include:
The division of marital property and assets, as well as debts and liabilities
Issues pertaining to child custody and visitation
Payments of spousal or child support
Agreements on restricted behaviors, such as going to a spouse’s residence or contacting them at work
It is important to note that separation agreements are something that both parties must enter into willingly. While drafted by your attorney, signed in the presence of witnesses, and notarized, it is not filed or enforceable by the South Carolina Family Court. It can be useful for establishing boundaries and guidelines for the separation, and it may form the basis for more permanent and legally enforceable agreements once your divorce is filed.
An Order for Separate Maintenance and Support
When the parties are not in agreement on the above issues or something more legally binding is required, an Order for Separate Maintenance and Support may be the solution. Under South Carolina laws, this is a temporary court order you may request from the court that addresses property, child custody and support, and spousal support issues. If one of the parties fails to adhere to the order, they can be held in contempt of court and face fines as well as a potential jail sentence. Requirements for obtaining an Order for Separate Maintenance and Support include:
The spouses involved must be living separate and apart;
A Summons and Complaint must be filed with Family Court Clerk, and a copy must be served on the other party involved;
You must fill out a financial affidavit, outlining your income as well as your marital assets and debts.
Once your complaint is served, your spouse has the right to respond, and a hearing will be scheduled within 30 days. At this hearing, a judge will hear testimony from attorneys for both of the parties and will issue an order based on their judgments in the case. If granted, an order for separate maintenance will serve only as a temporary order during your separation, but similar to a separation agreement, it may provide the foundation for a more permanent order during your divorce proceedings.
Contact Our South Carolina Divorce Attorneys
If you are going through a separation or are considering filing for divorce, contact our experienced South Carolina divorce attorneys today. At the Surasky Law Firm, LLC, we can advise you on the best course of action in your situation, while providing the professional legal representation you need to help ensure your interests are protected.