Whether your separation from your spouse was something you wanted or not, at some point, the issue comes up of taking the next step: getting a divorce. While there are many issues related to a couple’s separation, including custody, child support, alimony, and property distribution, the divorce often feels like the “final” piece of the puzzle. Even though it may not be the last step in your case, it feels so final because it’s the part of the process that legally severs the bonds of matrimony in a once-happy relationship. That’s a big deal for most people. Some may dread this step, while others are ready to take the plunge as soon as possible as it means a new beginning and a way to move on. Understanding the grounds for divorce and when this next step is available to you and your spouse is important to prepare yourself for what the future holds for you in terms of the end of your marriage.
While your actual divorce can be fairly simple, there are requirements to meet in order to be eligible for a divorce, and there are certain circumstances that can complicate when you are able to take this next step. Here are some of the basic requirements and common scenarios that need to be examined prior to taking making your divorce final:
- Residency requirements. If both you and your spouse live in South Carolina, you only have to meet a 3-month residency requirement. However, if just you or just your spouse lives in South Carolina, one of you must meet a one-year residency requirement. In this scenario, you may want to examine the requirements for divorce in the state that you or your spouse lives outside of South Carolina to see if there are more favorable timelines available there and if that is an option for you. You also need to make sure that the out-of-state divorce does not conflict with any of the other issues pending in your South Carolina domestic case.
- Grounds for divorce. There are five grounds for divorce in South Carolina. Those are: adultery, desertion for a period of one year, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness (involving alcohol or drugs), and separation for one year. Generally, although it’s not always the case, a divorce based on separation for one year is fairly simple to prove and not often contested. The fault-based grounds for divorce, such as adultery, physical cruelty, and habitual drunkenness, are more fact-specific and there are certain requirements you have to meet in order to qualify for a divorce under these circumstances.
- Timing of Divorce. The grounds that include desertion and separation are fairly self-explanatory in terms of how long you have to wait as the one-year requirement is built-in. That means from the time your spouse deserts you or the two of you separate, you have to wait an entire year before you are able to file for your divorce. If you meet the requirements of the fault-based grounds for divorced outlined above, then it is possible to request a final hearing on the divorce ninety days after you file for the divorce based on these grounds.
- Other Issues to be Considered. In filing your divorce, you also have to consider the financial, property, and custody issues in your case. While it’s easy to focus on the divorce itself, these other items are just as, if not, more important to ensure that your and your family’s issues are fully resolved.
While your first thought may be, when can I get my divorce, it can be a more complicated issue and process. Some circumstances may allow you to fast-track the divorce process, and some circumstances require a longer waiting period. Whether or not you are ready for your divorce, it’s important to understand the process and everything involved in not just the divorce, but the other issues in your case. An experienced family law attorney will point you in the right direction and help ensure all issues related to your separation and divorce are taken care of in a timely and professional manner. If you have the right person to guide you, you can come out on the other side of this process happy, knowledgeable, and equipped to handle your future.