How long does it take to get a divorce in SC? That’s a burning question on the minds of many couples who are considering divorce, who may be in a bad situation, and who are ready to move on with their lives.
The answer, of course, depends on your situation and the facts of your case. Theoretically, a divorce in SC could take as little as 90 days, but, more often, it will take much longer. Many divorces can take a year or longer to resolve, depending on the grounds for divorce, whether there are contested issues, and the court’s docket.
Note that during the COVID-19 pandemic, divorce actions may take a bit longer unless they are truly uncontested, but the family courts are currently scheduling “remote” final divorce hearings that are not in person.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in SC?
Setting aside the effects of the pandemic on the court system, let’s look at the factors that will affect how quickly you can resolve your case. To answer how long it takes to get a divorce in SC, you will have to consider:
- The amount of preparation required before you can file the divorce action;
- The time required for filing and service of the complaint and whether there are any jurisdictional issues;
- The grounds for divorce – will the divorce be fault-based or will it be based on a one-year separation; and
- Whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.
Unexpected issues can also arise – for example, the court may decide that venue is appropriate in another county or even another state. Or you may think your divorce is uncontested, but your spouse may have other ideas…
Before Filing for Divorce
Although SC law says you can schedule a final hearing 90 days after filing for a fault-based divorce or 365 days after you have lived separate and apart from your spouse in a no-fault divorce, you must also consider the time it takes to prepare for your divorce proceedings.
Consider a separation period: For many people, it makes sense to separate from their spouse for a period of time while they consider whether a divorce is what they want and need. If you intend to ask the court for a no-fault divorce, this period of time will count towards the 365 days that you must live separate and apart.
You should still consult with your divorce attorney as soon as you decide to separate – you will be able to prepare for the possibility of divorce and your attorney will be able to help you 1) prepare a separation agreement with terms that can later be incorporated into the court’s final divorce decree, and 2) obtain a temporary order from the family court that resolves issues like who will live in the family home, temporary alimony or child support, and child custody.
Finding a divorce attorney: Once you begin considering a divorce, your first step may be locating and retaining the right divorce attorney for your case.
Make a list of all property and assets: your attorney and the court will need to see a complete inventory of property and assets that belong to you and your spouse, including real estate, automobiles, furniture, jewelry, personal possessions, and anything that is of value – monetary or sentimental – to you and your spouse.
Prepare the information you will need for your financial declaration: In addition to an inventory of your property and assets, your attorney and the court will need detailed information on your and your spouse’s income and expenses.
Filing for Divorce
Once you are ready to file the divorce action, some procedural rules must be followed. For example:
- Jurisdiction and venue: your attorney must determine whether you and your spouse meet the residency requirement for the state of SC and the county in which the action should be filed;
- Once the divorce complaint has been filed, it must be served on your spouse;
- Once the summons and complaint have been served, your spouse has 30 days to respond, but the family court will often grant at least one extension to their attorney (another 30 days);
- When your spouse answers the complaint, they might include counterclaims in their answer – then you will have 30 days to reply to the counterclaims; and
- There may be a discovery process that could include interrogatories, requests to produce, requests to admit, depositions of key witnesses, subpoenas, and physical or mental examinations. Each party has 30 days to respond to discovery requests, and extensions of time are often granted.
What are the Grounds for Divorce?
Your grounds for divorce may also determine how long it takes to get a divorce in SC:
No-fault divorce: If you have lived separate and apart for a full year, you are eligible for a no-fault divorce. In this case, it will take a minimum of 365 days after your separation before the divorce can be finalized.
Fault-based divorce: If you are asking for a divorce based on adultery, physical cruelty, desertion, or habitual drunkenness, you can schedule a final hearing as soon as 90 days after filing the divorce action.
Is the Divorce Contested or Uncontested?
If your divorce is uncontested – there are no disputed issues, and you and your spouse have reached an agreement that includes child support, child custody, alimony, and division of assets, your divorce will move much faster.
If your divorce is contested and an agreement cannot be reached, additional factors that may slow the process include:
- A need for more extensive discovery;
- Mediation to attempt to resolve the issues before your final hearing; or
- A contested trial where the family court decides the issues for you.
Your Myrtle Beach divorce lawyer on the Axelrod team will help you to determine how long your case will take – we are prepared to help you negotiate with your spouse quickly and painlessly whenever possible, and we are also prepared to go to war to protect your interests whenever necessary.