To receive a divorce in South Carolina, you must have one of the five available legal grounds.
physical cruelty – This is the reason based on the physical abuse of one of the spouses to the other. It can be established for a series of abuses or for a single incident of exceptional violence. There is no requirement that one of the spouses be arrested or prosecuted for domestic violence or any other crime.
Adultery – It is established by proving that the spouse had both reason and opportunity to have a physical relationship outside of marriage. It can be established by purely circumstantial evidence. Adultery can be based on homosexual acts. Courts do not consider a relationship purely online or over the phone adultery.
habitual drunkenness – This is proven by showing that one of the spouses abuses alcohol or drugs to the point that it has resulted in the breakdown of the marriage. Drug or alcohol use must exist close to the time the divorce case is filed.
Abandonment or Desertion – This is the reason based on one of the spouses leaving the other without their consent for a full year. This is a ground fault and was established before the advent of the “no fault” option described below. Although this plea still exists, it has fallen out of favor and is no longer actively pursued by most family law attorneys.
one year separation – This is based on demonstrating that the spouses are “living apart and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year.” A divorce on this ground can be granted as soon as the same day the pleadings are filed, there is no set waiting period. However, unless special arrangements are made, it normally takes 6-8 weeks to receive a court hearing.
All of the grounds will likely require additional evidence beyond the testimony of the parties. This is usually accomplished through the testimony of a third party who can verify the authenticity of the land. This rule was created to prevent people from fabricating a fault plea in an effort to defraud the court into granting a divorce for which they would not otherwise be eligible.
The court can grant divorces based on physical cruelty, adultery, and habitual drunkenness after as little as 90 days. However, to get an expedited divorce, you need to have a full and complete agreement with your spouse on all secondary issues (such as child custody, alimony, property division, or debt assignment). If you do not have an agreement and a trial is necessary, it will usually take much longer than 90 days for your case to reach the Court. At that time, you may be eligible for a one-year divorce on grounds of separation.
Legal separation does not exist in South Carolina. Our closest equivalent is called separate support and maintenance. In the event that there is no reason, or a spouse does not want a divorce, you can request a remedy that resolves the secondary issues of the divorce through a petition for separate alimony and maintenance. In the event that a ground for divorce cannot be fully proven in court, the judge may consider the case as one of alimony and separate maintenance.