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How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in South Carolina?

At Surasky Law Firm, many of our clients are eager to finally get divorced. They want to start dating again or perhaps take another trip down the aisle. Unfortunately, South Carolina doesn’t allow “quickie” divorces. There is a process to follow, even if you and your spouse agree on critical issues. In this article, we look at uncontested divorces in the Palmetto State. These are divorces where you and your spouse have reached an agreement on important issues like child custody, division of marital property, child support, and alimony. 

South Carolina has unique divorce laws. Several of these laws make it harder to get a divorce than it needs to be and can add months or even years to your wait. Below, a family law attorney looks at some of these requirements. 

Why is My Uncontested Divorce Taking So Long? 

South Carolina makes it hard to get divorced quickly—even when you and your spouse are in agreement. 

First, you need to identify the grounds for divorce. This is the legal reason for requesting a divorce. South Carolina provides a handful of fault grounds, such as adultery, desertion, drunkenness, or physical abuse. 

There is also a no-fault option, but this requires living apart from your spouse continuously for a year. Your divorce can’t start until one year has elapsed. That’s quite a long wait. In other states, there is no continuous separation requirement for a no-fault divorce, but if you want a South Carolina divorce, you need to meet our state’s requirements. 

South Carolian courts also are pretty strict about what “living apart” means. The state’s Supreme Court held that living in separate bedrooms in the same house was not living apart. One spouse will need to move out so that the clock will start on your year of separation. 

Can You Speed Up the Process with a Fault Divorce? 

In theory. You could claim adultery or drunkenness and avoid the requirement of living apart for a year. However, a divorce based on fault is contested. Your spouse won’t agree that he or she committed adultery, so you will have to engage in fact finding, status conferences, and have a hearing before a judge. Given how overloaded the courts are, there’s a good chance you are waiting a year before you can obtain a divorce decree. 

How Can Residency Requirements Delay a Divorce? 

South Carolina courts won’t divorce anyone who shows up in the state. Instead, South Carolina courts need jurisdiction over the case. The court only has jurisdiction if you and your spouse have both been living in South Carolina for at least three months. If only one spouse is in the state, then he or she must have resided in the state for at least a year. 

For example, you might have lived apart from your spouse for a full year, and now you have moved to South Carolina. You want to divorce here, but you’ll need to wait another year before you can file. 

How Long Will I Need to Wait for a Final Hearing? 

Once you are ready to divorce, you can fill out and have your lawyer file the necessary paperwork. You then need to arrange a service of process on your spouse. Let your lawyer handle this. 

Once your spouse receives the paperwork, he or she gets 30 days to file an answer with the court. After filing, you can request a final hearing if you really have no contested issues. 

At the hearing, you will give the judge your written agreement to show the judge it is truly uncontested. Typically, South Carolina residents end up waiting 90 days (at least) to have a final hearing. You won’t receive a divorce decree until you have the hearing. 

So Will I End Up Waiting 1 Year and 3 Months for an Uncontested Divorce? 

Possibly. Of course, you might have already been living apart from your spouse when you decide to divorce. If not, one of you will need to move out of the house so the one-year clock can begin. 

Can You Help with Separation? 

Yes. In many cases, separation requires many of the same considerations as divorce. Let’s say you have two minor children with your spouse. Now that you are separated, you need a custody schedule. You will also need to make decisions regarding property, such as who can stay in the house or use a vehicle. One parent will also probably need to pay child support. 

Work closely with a lawyer at Surasky Law. We have helped many men and women with separation before moving forward with divorce. 

How Can I Speed Up this Divorce? 

While living apart, you can begin negotiations with your spouse. Put this time to good use! You need to reach agreement on all relevant legal issues. 

By far, most disagreement arises with child custody. However, you should already have a parenting plan in place while you live separate and apart from your spouse. This is a good way to see what works and what doesn’t. You can revise the current plan to better suit your needs when you finally obtain your divorce decree. 

Also think about the division of marital property. Do you want the family home once you divorce? Or is there other marital property you find preferable? Your choice of assets can make a big difference in your financial health after ending a marriage. 

Schedule a Consultation with Our Divorce Lawyer 

Men and women often want to discuss their legal options in a private environment before filing for divorce. Please call Surasky Law Firm today. We are eager to help our clients think through all options, including whether to file a divorce based on fault (like adultery) or whether to live separate and apart for a year. We can also negotiate on your behalf with your spouse to determine important issues like child custody and division of marital assets. We can also negotiate divorce agreements, which you can present to a judge to speed up your case. Contact us today. 


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