No-fault divorce has always been an option in SC, but now, thanks to COVID-19, a no-fault, no court divorce is also an option, at least temporarily.
In addition to the “fault” grounds for divorce in SC – adultery, habitual drunkenness or drug use, and physical abuse, you can get a divorce based on one year’s continuous separation from your spouse.
A no-fault, uncontested divorce is the quickest and easiest way to get a divorce in SC, but, ordinarily, you must still wait for the court to schedule a final hearing. When you and your spouse agree on all issues like division of property, alimony, child support, custody, and visitation rights, your attorneys can prepare a settlement agreement along with the necessary forms and documentation before you go to court.
Although any settlement reached by the parties is subject to change by the court if it is manifestly unfair or if it is not in the best interest of the children, most settlement agreements in uncontested divorces are adopted by the Court in the final divorce decree. But, ordinarily, you must still schedule a divorce hearing where the court will take testimony and question the parties before signing the final divorce decree.
Under the SC Supreme Court’s “Operation of the Trial Courts During the Coronavirus Emergency” Order, you can now, temporarily, obtain a no-fault, no court divorce – the court will review your filings and documentation and, if everything is in order, grant your divorce without the need for a court appearance.
No-Fault No Court Divorce in SC
Until further notice, the family courts in SC will provide no-fault, no court divorces when no issues are contested and written testimony of the parties and witnesses are provided in affidavits:
(f) Family Court. The following additional guidance is provided regarding the Family Court:
(1) Granting of Uncontested Divorces. The Family Court may grant an uncontested divorce without holding a hearing where:
(A) The parties submit written testimony in the form of affidavits or certifications of the parties and corroborating witnesses that address jurisdiction and venue questions, date of marriage, date of separation, the impossibility of reconciliation and the alleged divorce grounds.
(B)The written testimony must include copies of the parties’ and witnesses’ state-issued photo identifications.
(C)Any decree submitted by any attorney shall be accompanied by a statement, as an officer of the court, that all counsel approve the decree and that all waiting periods have been satisfied.
(D) Should either party request a name change in connection with a request for divorce agreement approval, that party shall submit written testimony to the Family Court in the form of an affidavit or certification addressing the appropriate questions for name change and the name which he or she wishes to resume. This relief shall be included in any proposed Order submitted to the Court for approval at the time of the submission of the documents related to the relief requested.
The changes don’t just apply to final divorce decrees in uncontested cases – the family courts are also authorized to sign other types of court orders without a hearing.
No Hearing is Required for Approval of Settlement Agreements or Consent Orders
During the COVID-19 emergency, SC family courts will issue orders on all matters that are uncontested without the need for an in-person hearing, including consent orders for:
- Discovery disputes;
- Motions to be relieved as counsel;
- Appointment of Guardians ad Litem; and
- Temporary orders.
(A)General Orders. Consent orders resolving all matters, regardless of whether filed or heard prior to or after the declaration of this public health emergency, may be issued without the necessity of holding a hearing. Examples include consent orders resolving motions to compel, discovery disputes, motions to be relieved as counsel, or consent Orders appointing a Guardian ad Litem or addressing Guardian ad Litem fee caps. Any proposed order or agreement must be signed by the parties, counsel for the parties, and the Guardian ad Litem, if one has been appointed.
(B)Temporary Orders. Temporary consent orders resolving all matters, regardless of whether filed or heard prior to or after the declaration of this public health emergency, may be issued without requiring a hearing. Any proposed order or agreement must be signed by the parties, counsel for the parties, and the Guardian ad Litem, if one has been appointed, and may be submitted and issued without the necessity of filing supporting affidavits, financial declarations or written testimony.
The courts are also authorized to sign final consent orders without a hearing, including:
- Settlement agreements;
- Custody and visitation agreements;
- Enforcement agreements; and
- Final divorce decrees in uncontested cases.
(C)Final Orders. Final consent orders approving final agreements in all matters, regardless of whether filed or heard prior to or after the declaration of this public health emergency, may be issued without requiring a hearing. These final consent orders include marital settlement agreements, custody and visitation settlement agreements and enforcement agreements. Any proposed order or agreement must be signed by the parties, counsel for the parties, and the Guardian ad Litem, if one has been appointed.
All documentation that you would ordinarily be required to submit at or prior to your hearing must still accompany your consent order including financial declarations for yourself and your spouse:
These Consent Orders shall be submitted together with all the following:
(i) The final agreement, such as a marital settlement agreement, signed by the attorneys and the parties.
(ii) Updated signed Financial Declarations for each party.
(iii) An affidavit or certification from the Guardian ad Litem, if one has been appointed, addressing the best interests of the children.
The parties must also submit affidavits that contain written testimony responding to the questions that the family court would ordinarily ask the parties during the hearing:
(iv) Written testimony of all parties in the form of affidavit or certification addressing and answering all questions the Family Court would normally ask the parties on the record, including but not limited to affirmations from the parties that:
- The party has entered into the Agreement freely and voluntarily, understands the Agreement, and desires for the Agreement to be approved by the Court, without the necessity of a hearing.
- Setting forth the education level obtained by the party, the employment status of the party and the health of the party.
c.There are no additional agreements, and neither party has been promised anything further than that set out in the Agreement.
- The party fully understands the financial situation of each of the parties, the underlying facts, terms and effect of the Agreement.
- The party has given and received full financial disclosure.
f.The party has had the benefit of an experienced family law attorney.
- The party has had the opportunity to ask any questions relating to procedures and the effect of the Agreement.
h.The party is not acting under coercion or duress, and the party is not under the influence of any alcohol or drug.
- That the Agreement is fair and equitable, it was reached by the parties through arms-length negotiations by competent attorneys and the agreement represents some sacrifices and compromises by each party.
- The Agreement is in the best interests of the children, if there are any.
- That the parties have entered into a marital settlement agreement in full and final settlement of all issues arising from the marriage which have been raised or which could have been raised in the proceeding, other than issues relating to grounds for divorce.
l.The party is aware of the applicable contempt sanctions associated with non-compliance.
Your Myrtle Beach divorce lawyer on the Axelrod team will help you to prepare your documentation and present it to the court if you are eligible for a no fault, no court divorce.
Why Weren’t We Already Doing This?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, a lot of changes have been made to how government, the courts, and businesses operate. Some of those changes have prompted many to ask, why were we doing this in the first place?
The fact that we are now able to obtain a no-fault, uncontested divorce without a court appearance shows that we never needed to force parties to attend a court hearing for these matters in the first place.
If the court can review the written testimony of the parties and witnesses, their financial declarations, and the recommendations of the guardian ad litem or other interested parties, all documents are reviewed by the parties’ attorneys and the court, and there is no allegation or evidence of fraud, why is it necessary for the parties to appear in the courtroom?
Similarly, as non-violent offenders are released from incarceration or given personal recognizance bonds pre-trial, many are wondering why we were locking up non-violent offenders in the first place?
The COVID-19 crisis is providing a reality check for many Americans on whether that court rule, business practice, or fee was really necessary after all, and, hopefully, it will lead to much-needed reform in many areas of our society.
When the country “re-opens” and the courts return to normal, no fault, no court divorces should be a part of that normal, don’t you think?
While the SC Supreme Court’s coronavirus order is in effect, your divorce lawyer on the Axelrod team can help you to get an uncontested, no fault, no court divorce – call Axelrod and Associates now at (843) 916-9300 or send us a message through our website to find out how we can help.