Service Tag: divorce


Divorce can be a very stressful and emotionally draining process. It is likely one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make. If you are considering divorcing your spouse, you should speak with a family law attorney before beginning the process to ensure that you preserve your rights and receive the best outcome for you and your family.

Grounds for Divorce

in South Carolina

There are five grounds for obtaining a divorce in South Carolina. Four are “fault grounds” and one is a “no fault” divorce:

Grounds for divorce in south carolina
Divorce in South Carolina

In a divorce proceeding, the Court will hear all facts and consider all relevant evidence when making a final ruling on the issues related to child custody, child support, visitation, and property and asset division. So it’s important to present your best case to the Court in an effective manner with the help of an experienced attorney. 

If your case does not meet one of the five grounds for divorce, you can petition the Court for Separate Support and Maintenance, which will give you and your spouse permission to live separately, to divide your marital property and assets, and to determine custody and child support. After one year has passed, then you would be entitled to seek divorce based on one year continuous separation. Note, you do not need to wait for one year if you meet one of the other four grounds for divorce. 

You and your spouse always have the option to forego a lengthy and time consuming trial by signing a marital settlement agreement. Both you and your spouse, whether represented by attorneys or not, can draft an agreement where you are the decision makers in your own case. You decide how to handle the child custody, child support, alimony, divide the property and assets, who shall remain in the marital home, and designate who keeps certain property, etc. Going this route allows you to take control of your own life and make decisions for your family rather than having a Judge decide how you should live your life. It saves you time and a ton of money.

Let us represent you in your divorce proceeding to ensure you preserve your rights and have the best chance of receiving a favorable outcome for you and your family.  We will present you with all options (i.e., settlement agreement, mediation, or trial) and help you to make the best decision for your case. If you would like our assistance, call us today for your case review. 

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Safe Harbor staff attorney, Shanise Greenfield, is a voice for the voiceless. Safe Harbor Launches Legal Program 

Separate Support and Maintenance

South Carolina Family Courts issue Orders of Separate Support and Maintenance, which allow the parties to reside in separate households while also ordering specific details regarding the parties’ child custody, visitation, and support arrangements, as well as dividing the marital assets, liabilities and ordering marital debt payments. An Order of Separate Maintenance and Support is a temporary order; it does not cover the issue of divorce, and it does not end the parties’ marriage.

Either spouse may file an action for Separate Support and Maintenance, so long as the parties are living separate and apart. They must be living in completely separate residences – for example, living in the basement of the house under the same roof does not suffice as a separate residence. Sometimes there are circumstances where if one of the parties refuses to move out, one party can still file an action for Separate Support and Maintenance and seek an order requiring the other party to vacate the property. In those situations, the Court may order one party to remain in the marital home – usually the parent that usually takes care of the minor children, or one with other extenuating circumstances.

Issues Addressed in Maintenance or Support Orders

IN South Carolina

The issues addressed in maintenance and support orders in South Carolina are as follows: 

The issues not addressed in these orders are:  dividing retirement accounts, using life insurance as collateral for alimony, awarding post-divorce alimony, and divorce. These are final issues that will only be addressed once at a final hearing  or in a final order.

Avoid Expensive Litigation

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To avoid the expenses of litigation, the spouse can reach an agreement on the above issues, which the Judge will review to ensure it is fair to both parties, in the best interest of their minor children, and that it follows South Carolina law. If approved, the Agreement will be made an Order of the  court. 

Property Division

South Carolina is an “equitable distribution” state. Equitable distribution is the distribution of property and debt obligations used by the Court when dividing marital property during divorce proceedings. It does not mean “equal” division – it means “fair” division. So rather than a strict 50-50 split where each spouse received exactly one-half of the property acquired during the marriage, the doctrine of equitable distribution is used to look at the future financial situation of each spouse after the termination of the marriage. 

The court looks at the length of the marriage, the ages and health of each spouse, the amount of non-marital property, and any fault that may have affected the marital resources. Additionally, the court may consider the spouse’s need for additional training or education, retirement benefits, debts or liens on the marital property, whether any alimony is due, and potential tax consequences. 

Whether your marital property involves real estate, professional businesses, retirement plans, or other forms of property, let us put our knowledge and expertise to use in helping to resolve these marital property division matters. 

Marital vs. Separate Property

Marital property is property acquired or earned during the marriage, regardless of title. 

Separate property is property that either belonged only to one spouse before marriage or was acquired after the filing for divorce. Among other things, it could include some property given only to one spouse during the marriage.  

In South Carolina, separate property remains the property of the spouse who owned it before or during the marriage.

Real vs. Personal Property

Property is either marital or separate, and it includes assets and liabilities.

The most common types of property divided at divorce are real property like the family home, personal property like jewelry, and intangible property like income, dividends, and benefits.

All debts must be divided as well.

Valuing and Dividing Property

The court classifies assets and liabilities, property and debt, as marital or separate. Then it assigns a monetary value to the marital property and debt. Finally it distributes the marital assets between the two parties in an equitable manner.

Once all the property is valued, the court divides it based on a number of factors, including each spouse’s monetary contributions to property and appreciation in the value of the property, income, and the use of non-marital funds for the benefit of the marriage.  

The Marital Home

In South Carolina, the equity in the marital home is often one of the biggest assets the spouses divide. 

The equity is the market value of the house, less any debts or liens against it. Equity is established by determining what the current market value of the home is at the time of separation. Once the spouses agree to a current market value, any debts associated with the property (mortgage, taxes, home equity loans, etc.) are deducted from the market value to arrive at the equity to be divided. 

Normally, making this calculation requires a paid real estate appraisal or a real estate agent can prepare a market analysis for free. 

Pensions and Retirement Accounts

In South Carolina vested pensions are marital property. A pension vests when all the requirements to receive the pension have been met. Unvested pensions are also marital property. Until the pension has vested, the person under whom the pension is maintained has only an expectancy of interest in the pension.

Experts may be retained by the parties or by the courts to determine the value of marital assets if the parties cannot agree. Such experts may include accountants, real estate or business appraisers, or pension valuators. 

The court may include the retirement benefits and plans earned by both spouses as marital assets available for division.


Child Custody & Visitation

Resolving custody of the children can be one of the most difficult and emotional times for parents. Custody actions in South Carolina can be filed either independently or as part of a divorce action. The standard applied in all custody actions is “the best interests of the child.” The courts consider many factors in determining the best interests of a child including the physical, psychological, spiritual, educational, familial, emotional, and recreational aspects of the child’s life. The courts will also assess each parent’s character, fitness, and attitude as they impact the child; consider the child’s preference for custody; and weigh any domestic violence. 

Custody will be divided in one of two forms: “physical” or “legal”.  Physical custody determines where the children will live and a visitation schedule will be created to ensure each parent can maintain a good relationship with the children. Legal custody deals with the rights and responsibilities of making decisions for the children, such as: where the children will attend school, what religious practice will be followed, whether the children will receive counseling and where, etc.

Additionally, there are two types of custody arrangements: “joint custody” and “sole custody.” Joint custody means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child. Sole custody means one parent has the right and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child.

Parents must submit Parenting Plans to the court that will specify how much time the child will spend with each parent and which parent will make major decisions for the child, including the child’s education, medical and dental care, extracurricular activities, and religious training.

A custody action or a divorce action in which custody is contested must be filed by an attorney. When custody is contested, both parties to the action must participate in mediation. The court will also appoint a Guardian ad Litem who is an independent person that will interview parents, children, family members, friends, school personnel, and other people involved in the family’s life, as well as collect evidence regarding the children, to make a recommendation to the court as to the best custody arrangement for the child.

To provide you with the most autonomy over your family, we will make reasonable efforts to settle these matters by agreement. Doing so will allow you and the other parent to make your own custody and visitation schedule that you are comfortable with rather than having the decision made by the Court, who is not familiar with all of the details and intricacies of your work, social, and commuting schedules. If the Court has to make the final decision, it will likely result in a schedule that’s less than ideal for either parent. 

The Greenfield Law Firm has more than seven years of experience representing clients in child custody and family law related issues. Whether it’s divorce, custody, support, protective orders, or mediation, our law firm is here to help you.

We will provide you with the requisite information and guidance so that you can make informed decisions that will reflect the best interest of the children.  Contact our firm today to schedule a consultation.