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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. 

Upstate Business Journal, The Legal Issue, “Local Attorney Advocates for Domestic Violence Victims” (June 2019)

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

Greenfield Law office Can help you today!

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.


Mediation in South Carolina

Mediation is an informal form of the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. It gives both parties an opportunity to sit down with a neutral person called a mediator to try and work out an agreement.  The idea behind mediation is that most people would be happier with agreements they made themselves rather than a solution imposed on them by the Court. It is believed that most litigants are more capable than a judge of making the best decisions for their family as it relates to custody and visitation of their children. Mediation gives the family an opportunity to take charge of their family’s future. 

Mediation is required in all Family Court cases if there are any issues in dispute. If there are any unresolved issues about child custody or visitation, then you are required to mediate these issues early on. The mediation process must be completed before a final hearing can be scheduled. If a party fails to attend a scheduled mediation conference without good cause, the Court can impose sanctions. 

The parties may select a mediator, or one will be appointed by the Family Court. The mediator is paid by the parties who usually split the cost. In some cases, mediation may be exempt by the Family Court for good cause (i.e., mental incapacity, incarceration, spousal abuse, child abuse, substance abuse, etc.). 

Is mediation required in South Carolina?

The mediator, the parties, and their attorneys are required to attend the mediation settlement conference. They must participate in at least three hours of mediation unless an agreement is reached sooner. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will draft a Memorandum of Agreement to be signed by the parties. –Marriage and Divorce Law in South Carolina

Child Support in South Carolina

Child support is a regularly occurring payment that is made by a noncustodial parent to the custodial parent for support of a child or children. In South Carolina, court ordered child support is set based on the child support guidelines which consider the number of children in the household and the income of both parents.

The amount of child support awarded will be based on the parents’ gross incomes. The court will also consider the following factors when determining the amount: the number of children in the home, other current child support payments, alimony, health insurance, child care costs and extraordinary medical expenses.

Child support may be increased or decreased when there is a substantial change of circumstances such as: losing your job, making substantially less money now than when the order was made, a child now lives with you, a child is now emancipated, or you have a medical condition, injury or disability. 

Generally, child support lasts until the child or children turn 18 and has completed high school or at the end of the school year when the child turns 19. It could potentially continue if the child is in college or has a disability. Child support will not end automatically, and a motion will need to be filed to terminate the support obligation. 

If a paying parent fails to pay child support according to a court order, that parent may be held in contempt of court by way of a Rule to Show Cause Hearing, and that parent may be required to pay the arrears amount. 

We will utilize the Guidelines to ensure that you receive or pay an equitable amount of financial support required to raise your children in a healthy and stable home. Let us help you today.

Child Support Calculator

The amount of child support will be based on the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines consider the income of both parents and the number of children. Day care and health insurance costs are also considered..

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.  

Domestic Violence is a Crime

Domestic violence is a serious crime, particularly in South Carolina. According to the Violence Policy Center, South Carolina ranks number five (5) in the nation of women murdered by men. South Carolina has ranked in the top ten (10) in the last twenty years. South Carolina’s continued presence at the top of the list of most dangerous states as it relates to Domestic Violence demonstrates how much work our state still has to do to get this public health crisis under way. 

If you are a victim of Domestic Violence, you may need an attorney’s help to ensure that you are safe and that your abuser is prosecuted. Victims of Domestic Abuse are protected under the “Protection from Domestic Abuse Act.” This means that victims are entitled to seek relief from the court in the form of a Protection Order –an “order of protection.” To qualify for protection from abuse through the Court, the victim must have suffered either physical harm, bodily injury, assault, threat of physical harm, or sexual criminal offenses committed against a family or household member by a family or household member.

In South Carolina, Domestic Violence involves causing physical harm or injury to a household member or threatening to or attempting to cause physical harm or injury to a household member with the apparent present ability under the circumstances, reasonably creating fear or imminent peril.

What is Domestic Violence?

In South Carolina, Domestic Violence involves causing physical harm or injury to a household member or threatening to or attempting to cause physical harm or injury to a household member with the apparent present ability under the circumstances, reasonably creating fear or imminent peril. 

Household Member means: 

Orders of Protection

The Court must have jurisdiction to hear the case. An action for an order of protection must be filed in the county in which: a) the alleged act of abuse occurred, b) the petitioner resides or is sheltered, unless the petitioner is a nonresident of the state, c) the respondent resides, unless the respondent is a nonresident of the state, or d) the parties last resided together. 

The victim/ petitioner must file a petition for an order of protection with the Family Court. After the court reviews the petition, a hearing will be scheduled – either an emergency 24-hour hearing or a standard hearing to be held within 15 days. These hearings can be extremely uncomfortable and intimidating for victims when facing their abusers. 

You do not have to do it alone! Let us help you fill out the petition and represent you at the order of protection hearing. If you are successful, you will be granted an order of protection for six (6) months to one (1) year, which will prevent your abuser from: abusing, threatening to abuse, or molesting you or the person on whose behalf the petition was filed. It can also prevent the abuser from communicating with you or attempting to communicate with you directly or through a third party, and from entering or attempting to enter your place of residence, employment, education, or other location as the court may order. 

Additional relief may be requested such as: custody of the children you have in common, visitation, child support, and spousal support if you are married. 

If your abuser violates the provisions of the order of protection, it is a criminal act that is punishable by thirty days in jail or a fine of two hundred dollars or may constitute contempt of court punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine not to exceed fifteen hundred dollars. 

Restraining Orders

Not every case will qualify for an Order of Protection due to a lack of the physical violence or threat of physical violence. However, in instances where either an intimate partner or a stranger is harassing you or stalking you, you may seek a Restraining Order from the Magistrate Court. 

Housing and Employment Discrimination

Domestic Violence often times can affect a victim’s rights to reside safely in their homes or to maintain their employment. Victims suffer from discrimination from their landlords who may ask them to vacate their apartments due to the domestic violence or the employers terminate their employment for the same reason. Victims dealing with these issues should be aware that they are protected by the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA). 

If you are a victim of domestic violence, we want to support you in any way we can. Let us help you. Give us a call for assistance with these difficult matters. 

Need an Emergency Order of Protection Today?

Get Started

If you are a victim of domestic violence, we want to support you in any way we can. Let us help you. Give us a call for assistance with these difficult matters. Fill out the Protection Order Questionnaire below before your scheduled OP consultation to allow us to process your Order of Protection petition with more expediency. This will help us complete your request much faster.

DV Related Trainings

Trainings on Orders of Protection and Restraining Orders: learn how to fill out the petitions, where and how to file them, and what resources are available to assist with obtaining them. Learn what the qualifications are to obtaining an Order of Protection or Restraining Order. Understand what happens after they are granted. – Dynamics of Domestic Violence, Lethality Assessments, and Safety Planning – DSS Involvement: Understand why DSS may become involved in Domestic Violence situations and best practices in working with them.

Recognizing Signs of DV Among Employees or Students

and Developing Protocols to Address It

Have you noticed an employee who appears to only be a shell of who they used to be? Are they withdrawn? Constantly calling out of work or taking leave of absences out of the ordinary? Coming to work or class wearing sunglasses or turtlenecks? It’s likely that person is in a domestic abuse relationship or experiencing some dating violence. I can help you help them. I can help you to intentionally become more aware of the signs that an employee, friend, coworker, or student is going through domestic abuse. Let me help your office or school develop and put into place appropriate protocols so that you can:

Book Attorney Greenfield Today

If you are in need of an experienced and dynamic attorney and speaker, contact us today.