The decision to divorce may be one of the hardest decisions you ever make. Because of the consequences, it should never be made quickly. A divorce not only dissolves a legal relationship, but it may significantly change the entire family dynamic. However, if you believe your marriage is irretrievably broken and divorce is your best course of action, here are three things to remember before filing your lawsuit in South Carolina.
1.Grounds for Divorce
To obtain a divorce in South Carolina, you have to have “grounds” for the divorce, that is, a legal reason for the divorce. There is the “no-fault” ground, or one of the four “fault” grounds. A “no-fault” divorce refers to where the parties have lived separately, in different households, for at least one year, without reconciling at all. Even if you cannot agree on other issues such as custody or property division, for example, you can still proceed with a “no-fault” ground divorce so long as you meet the criteria above.
A fault ground for divorce means you have to prove one (or more) of the following:
- Habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotics (prescription or over-the-counter) when the alcohol or drug abuse negatively affects the marriage
- Physical abuse or cruelty where the abuse is so severe or it “shocks the conscience”
- Desertion for at least one year, which means that a spouse left the marriage and cannot be found
To obtain a divorce based on a fault ground requires a higher burden of proof. You have to prove the fault ground by clear and convincing evidence.
2. Put the Brakes on Dating!
Dating, even during a mutual separation, could have very real negative consequences. For instance, exposing your children to your romantic partners could affect whether or not you get custody of the children or it may affect your visitation with the children.
You waive any right you might have to receive alimony or support from your spouse if you commit adultery before you and your spouse have reached and signed a formal written property or marital settlement agreement, or you have obtained a permanent court order of separate maintenance and support, or a permanent court order approving a property or marital settlement agreement.
3. DIY Divorce is Harder Than it Seems
It is tempting to try to navigate a divorce on your own to save money and time. However, a DYI divorce is only appropriate if you meet the criteria of a simple divorce. A simple divorce is one where you are getting the divorce on a “no-fault” ground; there are no children or you have reached a complete agreement on custody, child support, and visitation; you do not own any property or have any debt, or you have completely and fairly divided the property and debt; and neither spouse is pregnant or has given birth to a child during the separation. In addition to this criterion, the court must find that your agreement is fair and reasonable to each party and it is in your children’s best interest.
Most divorces are complex, and the divorce process is often complicated by hurt feelings on either side. These cases require specific and knowledgeable legal counsel. Failing to obtain the right attorney for your matter could mean obtaining a result that is not favorable to you or your children.
You don’t have to face this alone. For the experience you can trust and the compassion you need, contact McCutchen McLean, LLC, for guidance through every step of the divorce process.