The experience of going through a divorce can get emotionally distressing and complex. Those who have already gone through one will testify to this fact. The legalities of the divorce process add to the complications. But residents of South Carolina have an easier option provided they can avail it. It is commonly referred to as a simplified divorce.
A simplified divorce is usually an uncontested one. In South Carolina, you can file for an uncontested divorce without hiring a lawyer and breaking your bank. This article aims to enlighten you on the various processes involved in doing so.
Do you really need a legal representative to file an uncontested divorce in South Carolina?
The straight answer is no. One does not necessarily need a lawyer to file an uncontested divorce in the state of South Carolina. Although hiring one wouldn’t hurt your cause if you can afford it. Even if you choose not to, we would recommend consulting with a qualified attorney in any case. It is a good way to ensure that you do not miss any of the issues that require your attention.
You might be eligible to receive alimony and not realize it. There might be some property division issues that would entitle you to more than you expect. Hence, we advise speaking to an attorney before proceeding with the divorce process. This will make you aware of your options and rights, so you make the right decision. As far as hiring one goes, you can well do without going that route.
What exactly is an uncontested divorce?
Just to brush up on the basics, let us understand what an uncontested divorce in South Carolina implies. In an uncontested divorce, the couple agrees with the terms of the dissolution and contests nothing. From asset division, child custody, and alimony to primary custody and visitation schedules, all issues are settled without any dispute.
An uncontested divorce differs from a no-fault divorce. Although some of its implications are the same, the basic concept of both varies considerably. An uncontested divorce could be filed using the no-fault grounds. But there are multiple cases of no-fault cases being contested in court.
There can be instances where both parties admit to adultery or some other fault ground and acknowledge the terms of the divorce. The grounds for divorce must be accepted by the judge and proven even when there is no objection.
Hence, we must clearly understand what a no-fault divorce means. It simply implies that neither party is claiming any fault grounds like physical cruelty, drunkenness, or adultery. The divorce is simply due to irreconcilable differences between the couple that can’t be overcome.
Being a no-fault divorce does not guarantee a smooth divorce process. There can be issues that the parties contest. But in the case of an amicable separation, a smooth process can be achieved. That is why it is a very desirable approach when it comes to divorces in South Carolina. For starters, it saves both spouses a lot of money, time, and impending stress.
What does an uncontested divorce in South Carolina require?
You need to tick a few boxes for filing for an uncontested divorce in South Carolina. For starters, either spouse must reside in the Palmetto state for a minimum of one year. In case both parties reside there, then the minimum period is reduced to three months. If a no-fault grounds divorce is in the cards, then the law requires you to live separately for a year before you can initiate the divorce process.
Living separately implies that you do not share the same house for even a single night during that tenure. If you file for an uncontested divorce, you must meet the following requirements in addition to the ones mentioned above.
- You must be officially married and carry a certificate of marriage testifying to that. Also, note that it must not be a common-law marriage.
- There is no issue of alimony involved in the divorce.
- Neither party is admitted to any mental institution for any pre-existing or present illness.
- Neither spouse is found to be incompetent by the court presiding over the case.
- Neither party is presently deployed.
A simplified uncontested divorce has its fair share of benefits. However, qualifying for one isn’t that simple in a majority of cases. Most cases have a few disagreements among the parties that need to be worked out.
The best cases of uncontested divorces are observed when the spouses have been recently married and have no children. And when there are fewer impending marital debts or assets to divide. These cases almost always roll out without any hassle considering they don’t entail any unprecedented issues later on. That is why consulting with a family attorney makes you aware of such hidden problems and ensures you address them effectively.
Why is caution a mandate in divorces?
Whether it is a contested divorce or not, caution is key while proceeding with them. Couples usually do not expect divorces to get very complicated when they first seek them out. When all details aren’t entirely covered, the chances are that issues will arise, leading to further complexities. These unexpected future matters might prove to be costly for both your wallet and your mental health.
Hence, treading with caution is mandatory when dealing with divorces. Making hasty decisions without being in the know can have adverse effects on your case. An experienced lawyer will help you to avoid such mistakes. Their consultation will make you aware of the consequences of your impending actions.
Lawyers do not always turn out to be costly. However, your goal must be to settle your divorce without going to trial. In cases where your spouse isn’t willing to reason with you, you have no choice but to go into litigation. Legal counsel, moral support, cautious decision-making, etc., are facets that you must never lose sight of. It will help you advocate your interests in the divorce case and provide an acceptable end to the case.
How to prepare your divorce forms properly?
Once you are aware of the repercussions of the divorce and decide to go on with it, the next step is preparing the forms. There will be a handful of forms that need to be filled out when opting for an uncontested divorce in South Carolina. The official website of the South Carolina Judicial branch publishes all these divorce forms. In essence, you will have to fill out the following.
- Divorce complaint
- Summons for Divorce
- Family Court Cover Sheet
- Exemption Certificate
- Financial Declaration form
All forms will contain blanks for ‘defendant’ and ‘plaintiff.’ The requesting party is termed as the plaintiff, and the one responding to it is called the defendant. Some of these forms have to be signed in front of a Notary public.
After filling out all the necessary forms, make copies of everything. The court will keep one, one will stay with you, and another needs to go to your spouse.
How to file your divorce forms?
After you have prepared your forms, you need to file them with the Clerk of Court. A citizen of South Carolina can choose from one of the following three locations.
- The county where you shared a residence with your spouse
- The county where your spouse resides during the time of filing
- The county where you reside if your spouse isn’t a South Carolina resident
The Court Clerk will charge you a fee for filing the divorce papers. If you are not prepared to pay the fee, you have the option of filing a motion and affidavit to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. If your motion gets approved, you will not have to pay the filing fees or the Sheriff’s Office service fees.
Serving the forms
Finally, after you file the forms with the Court Clerk, you need to serve a copy of all the required documents to your spouse. This includes the Certificate of Exemption, Family court cover sheet, the Summons of Divorce, and Divorce Complaint. You can serve your spouse in one of many ways.
You can hand deliver the divorce forms to your spouse. You can alternatively hire a sheriff or a professional server if you and your spouse are on good terms.
How can going online be very helpful?
When they say online divorce, they mean a service that helps spouses prepare the necessary forms and thus significantly save on the services of lawyers. This only works in case of an uncontested divorce.
Customers go to the appropriate website southcarolinaonlinedivorce.com, provide answers to a number of questions about their marriage and divorce, and submit them to the system. After that, they will receive the finished papers within a few days. The system will also send step-by-step instructions on how to submit the documents to the court. This is also known as DIY divorce.
In some cases, it is also possible to file for divorce online using the court e-filing system. Check with your county clerk to see if this option is available to you.
Handling a divorce in South Carolina can get difficult if you are unaware of the processes involved. However, with the right amount of professional guidance, an uncontested divorce in South Carolina shouldn’t be much of a problem.