A Summary of South Carolina Divorce Laws

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South Carolina

Grounds for Divorce Under South Carolina Divorce Laws

South Carolina law permits no-fault divorces based upon living separate and apart without cohabitation for at least one year. Additional grounds for divorce include:

  1. Adultery
  2. Desertion
  3. Physical cruelty
  4. Addiction to drugs or alcohol

Residency Requirements

In the “Palmetto State” (or as it was previously known, the Iodine State), a divorce will only be granted if one of the spouses is a resident of the state and has been a resident for a minimum of one year (or three months if you are both residents of South Carolina) immediately prior to the filing of the petition for divorce.  

Venue – Where to File

You (assuming you are the plaintiff) must file the petition for divorce in the county where the defendant (that being your soon-to-be ex spouse) resides at the time of the filing.

If the other person is not a resident or cannot be found, you may file for divorce in the county where you reside. If you are not a resident of the state, then the divorce must be filed in the county where the other spouse lives.

However, if both of you are residents of the state, the petition may also be filed in the county where you last shared a residence.

Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties

An action for divorce in the State of South Carolina is filed in the Family Court.  The title of the pleading initiating the divorce action is the Complaint for Divorce, the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Decree of Divorce. The party filing the action is the Plaintiff, and the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Defendant.

Legal Separation

South Carolina divorce laws permits a judgment of separation.  

Waiting Period

There is a three-month waiting period from the filing of the petition until the court will grant a judgment of dissolution of marriage. 

There is an exception to this three-month rule if you have been living apart for a period of at least one year prior to filing for divorce and the divorce is filed under these grounds.


In South Carolina, as in most states, the decision of who must pay alimony is up to the discretion of the courts. The courts may award alimony to either spouse based on the following factors:

  • The duration of the marriage and the age of the parties
  • The physical and emotional condition of the parties
  • The educational background of the parties along with the need of each for additional training or education
  • The employment history and earning potential of each spouse
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of each spouse
  • The current and reasonably anticipated earnings of each spouse
  • The marital and non-marital properties of each spouse
  • Custody of the children
  • Marital misconduct
  • Any other relevant factors
  • Adultery is also considered by the court when making a determination as to whether alimony should be granted.

Alimony may be periodic (paid in increments), a lump sum (paid all at once), rehabilitative (paid for as long as it takes for the other person to get back on their feet after the divorce) or a reimbursement type (which is pretty self explanatory).

Either party may petition the court for an order or judgment increasing or decreasing the amount of alimony.  

Distribution of Property

South Carolina divorce laws call for an equitable distribution of marital assets. This means that the court will divide the marital property between the parties as it deems fair and just after setting aside to each spouse the separate property of each.

Some of the factors the court considers in dividing the property between the parties include:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age of the spouse
  • Marital misconduct
  • Economic misconduct
  • The value of each party’s marital property
  • The contribution of each spouse to the marital estate
  • The income of each spouse

Child Custody

South Carolina courts will decide the issue of custody based on the best interests of the child. To do so, the court must consider the child’s reasonable preference for custody. The court shall place weight upon the preference based on the following factors:

  • The child’s age
  • Experiences
  • Maturity
  • Judgment
  • Ability to express a preference

Religious faith shall also be considered in determining custody. In making a decision regarding custody of a minor child. In addition to other existing factors specified by law, the court must give weight to any possible evidence of domestic violence.  

Grandparent Visitation

South Carolina divorce laws allow the courts to determine a grandparent’s visitation rights with a minor child where either or both parents of the minor child is or are deceased, are divorced, or are living separate and apart in different habitats regardless of the existence of a court order or agreement, and upon a written finding that the visitation rights would be in the best interests of the child and would not interfere with the parent/child relationship.

In determining whether to order visitation for the grandparents, the court shall consider the nature of the relationship between the child and his grandparents prior to the filing of the petition or complaint. 

Child Support

In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the court may order either or both parties to pay a reasonable amount necessary for the support of a child of the marriage.

The South Carolina legislature has established child support guidelines, which determine a reasonable amount of child support to be paid. Deviation from the guidelines requires a specific finding by the court that application of said guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate and such findings must be included in the judgment. 

Name Change

The court, upon granting a final judgment of divorce, will allow either party to resume the use of their former name, if desired, and in accordance with South Carolina divorce laws.


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