Every state has its own laws defining how the divorce process works. Although nobody wants a long, drawn out divorce, some states have a reputation for making it “too easy” for couples to call it quits. Other states actively discourage the quickie divorce, attempting to curb the divorce rate among their citizens. South Carolina was recently ranked among the states that make it the most difficult to obtain a divorce within its borders.
South Carolina Divorce Requirements
There are several divorce requirements in South Carolina that stand as barriers to a fast, easy divorce:
- Residency Requirement. Most states require one or both spouses to be residents of that state before they can file for divorce there. South Carolina requires that at least one spouse live in-state for 12 months to be eligible to file for divorce in the Palmetto State. This is double the national average residency requirement of six months. Some states, including Alaska and South Dakota, have no residency requirement at all.
- Separation Requirement. There is no legal separation in South Carolina. However, state law requires that a couple live apart for at least 12 months before filing for divorce. While most states require couples to be separated for a certain period of time before filing for divorce, a full year is much higher than the median separation requirement in the U.S. Additionally, South Carolina will not allow an in-home separation, which makes obtaining a divorce even more difficult for spouses that cannot afford to maintain separate residences. However, South Carolina will waive the separation requirement for at-fault divorces, which are only granted in cases of adultery, physical abuse, or habitual drug/alcohol use.
- Waiting Period. Once a South Carolina couple has lived separately for at least a year, they can file immediately for divorce. However, in cases of adultery, the law requires a waiting period of 90 days before the state can finalize the divorce. This means that it could take 450 days from the day of separation to finalize a divorce in South Carolina, longer than any other state besides Arkansas and Rhode Island.
South Carolina Divorce Rates
Strict divorce laws like those in South Carolina are designed to prevent couples from dissolving their marriage in the heat of the moment. So do separation requirements and mandatory waiting periods succeed at preventing divorce?
South Carolina does have a below-average divorce rate. Roughly 8 out of 1,000 married couples file for divorce in South Carolina every year. By comparison, the national annual average is about 10 divorces for every 1,000 married couples. It is also true that states with infamously lax divorce laws like Nevada and Alaska see notably higher divorce rates than the rest of the country. However, a state’s divorce rates are influenced by many factors including the population’s socioeconomic status, level of education, and age at time of marriage.
Charleston SC Divorce Attorneys
Getting a divorce in South Carolina may not be easy, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. The experienced family law attorneys at McCoy & Stokes, LLC can provide the legal support you need to get through this difficult time. Contact our Charleston, SC office today to schedule a consultation.