South Carolina Divorce Basics

Learn the basics of a divorce, or dissolution of marriage, in South Carolina.

Grounds for Divorce

South Carolina recognizes both no-fault and fault grounds for divorce. A couple may file for a no-fault divorce if they have been living separately, without cohabitation, for more than one year. Otherwise, the couple will need to provide a fault-based reason for divorce, including adultery, desertion by one spouse for at least one year, physical cruelty, or habitual drunkenness.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

South Carolina requires that a spouse filing for divorce must be a resident of the state for at least three months if both spouses live there. However, if only one spouse is a resident of South Carolina, then that spouse must live there for a year before filing for divorce.

There is a mandatory three month waiting period between the date the divorce is filed and the date that the court can issue the final divorce decree.

Property Division

South Carolina courts divide marital property equitably between the two parties. To determine what is equitable and just, the judge will look at the length of the marriage, the value of the property being divided, the spouses’ income and earning abilities, and whether alimony has been awarded, among other factors. The division doesn’t have to be equal; it just has to meet the judge’s definition of fairness.

Only marital property is subject to division. Any property acquired by either spouse before the marriage, or received through a separate gift or inheritance, or subject to a written agreement between the spouses defining it as non-marital property, will be separate property of one spouse, and will be awarded to that spouse.


Either spouse can request alimony (also called spousal support) from the other. Support can last temporarily until the divorce is finalized, or for a defined period of time after the divorce, or indefinitely, depending on the circumstances. South Carolina allows for several different kinds of spousal support: periodic alimony, lump-sum alimony, rehabilitative alimony, and reimbursement alimony.

Periodic alimony is paid monthly and ends when the supported spouse cohabitates with another person, remarries, or when either spouse dies. For lump-sum alimony, the court makes an order for a specific amount that is paid at one time or over a certain period of time. Either way, it is not modifiable and can only be terminated if the supported spouse passes away.

Rehabilitative alimony is used to help the supported spouse become self-sufficient through education or training. This type of support ends upon remarriage, either party’s death, or the supported spouse's cohabilitation with another person. Courts order reimbursement alimony when one spouse has contributed to the other’s education, training, or career advancement but is going to miss out on the future benefits of that because of the divorce--for example, when one spouse stays home caring for the kids and taking care of the house while the other builds a business or career.

Child Support

Parents are free to make their own agreement regarding child support and submit it to the court for review. Otherwise, the court will decide support by looking at each parents' resources and needs, and following the state guidelines, which require the judge to factor in each parent's gross income, alimony payments, the number of children in the home, and each parent's additional expenses. South Carolina provides an online calculator at the website for Child Support Enforcement, which can be found here.

Child Custody

Like many other states, South Carolina courts make child custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. This means that the court will look at various factors and decide what would be best for the child. South Carolina also allows the child to voice a preference for the primary parent if the child is mature enough.

In cases where one parent has been found guilty of domestic violence or other abuse, the court may still allow visitation between the parent and the child as long as the child is adequately protected. This may mean that the court orders the parents to exchange the child in a safe location, that a third party is present to supervise the visitation, or that the abusive parent must refrain from consuming alcohol or controlled substances within 24 hours before the visitation.

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