SC Divorce Statute Amendment Would Shorten the One-Year Separation

South Carolina family law divorce statute dictates how and when one can file a divorce petition in our family courts. First of all, South Carolina law recognizes five grounds for divorce. The first four are referred to as “fault grounds,” including (1) adultery; (2) desertion for a period of one year; (3) habitual intoxication from drugs and/or alcohol; and (4) physical abuse. A spouse can file a divorce petition based on any one of the fault grounds in the South Carolina family courts after a waiting period of 90 days.

South Carolina also recognizes a fifth ground for a “no-fault” divorce, where spouses have simply grown apart due to irreconcilable differences without blame being laid upon either party. The catch is, however, that South Carolina law imposes a one-year waiting period, where spouses must be living separate and apart, before they can file for a no-fault divorce. The separate and apart period is imposed with the hope of promoting reconciliation within that one-year period. Opponents of the lengthy waiting period, including House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, point out the hardship that the one-year separate and apart period causes children who are living in unhealthy and confusing households, and the financial hardship of maintaining two households before formal distributions and arrangements are made.

New Amendment Aims to Change the Rules

A proposed amendment to the South Carolina constitution has been making its way through the state legislature regarding this hot button issue. The amendment would reduce the time that spouses seeking a no-fault divorce need to be separated from one year to 150 days. The proposal first surfaced back in 2012, and has finally been passed by the House Judiciary Committee 12-11 in early 2014. As the no-fault divorce has by far become the most common divorce ground in South Carolina, the proposed amendment would reduce the financial and emotional stress that the one-year separate and apart period has on already eroding families.

Opponents of the proposed amendment argue that shortening the separation period is a slippery slope, leading to a further erosion of family values and compromising the sanctity of marriage. Proponents support the proposed amendment and argue that the reduced waiting period will also reduce the financial burden and unnecessary stress on the children during that one-year period of limbo. Proponents also assert that the existing one-year separation period gives spouses an incentive to lie in order to terminate their marriages faster or even to move out of state in order to obtain a quick divorce. For example, neighboring Georgia sets no time requirement for a no-fault divorce as long as one spouse has lived in Georgia for six months.

Contact Our Charleston Family Lawyers

Divorce raises many difficult and complicated issues, such as property distribution, child custody and support, payment of debts, alimony, and of course, legal fees. If you are interested in learning more about fault and no-fault divorces in the state of South Carolina, our family law attorneys are here to serve you. Contact Ayers Family Law, LLC today.