Best Ways to Easily Predict the Unique Cost of Divorce in South Carolina
Written by: Megan Dell
Getting divorced is a major decision and a significant investment in your future. Many people go into the process having no idea what the overall cost will be or how those costs are broken down. You deserve to understand the cost of divorce in South Carolina.
In this post, we’ll take you through ways you can predict the cost of divorce in South Carolina, based on your personal circumstances. By the end, you’ll be prepared to predict the cost of your divorce, which will help comfort some of the confusion and fear that can come with worrying about divorce.
The Filing Fee: Cost of Every South Carolina Divorce
Every South Carolina divorce requires payment of a filing fee, which is currently $150.00, to the Clerk of Court. All clerks will accept payment by cash, certified funds, or money order. Some counties are able to accept credit cards or debit cards. Most counties do not accept personal checks. The fee must be paid when you file your summons and complaint.
If you cannot afford the filing fee, then you have the option of asking permission to file in forma pauperis. If the Family Court determines, after reviewing your financial declaration, that you do not have the funds available to pay the costs of filing and service, then you may be permitted to proceed without paying the filing fee.
Cost of Service of Process for South Carolina Divorce
Rule 4, SCRCP, requires the defendant in any civil action be personally served with the summons and complaint. A sheriff or his deputy can serve the defendant. While this is often the cheapest way to serve the defendant, it may not be effective if your spouse is trying to avoid being served.
Most divorce lawyers in South Carolina use process servers to serve the summons and complaint on the defendant. Process servers can use methods like a skip trace to find someone, but their services are more expensive than those of the sheriff’s office.
Cost of Contested Divorce in South Carolina
As we have written before, if both parties agree on every detail related to ending a marriage, then they may be able to pursue an uncontested divorce. In our experience, an uncontested divorce in South Carolina can cost as little as $2,500.
Obviously, the cost of an uncontested divorce is much less than a contested one, but – unfortunately – not everyone can reach an agreement. For people who are facing the prospect of a contested divorce, the following factors can help predict the cost of divorce in South Carolina.
1 Cost of Divorce Lawyer
It is not a secret that a South Carolina divorce lawyer can cost thousands of dollars. Most divorce lawyers in South Carolina charge hourly for their services, with lawyer hourly rates ranging from $200 per hour to more than $500 per hour.
Lawyers’ rates are generally based on how long they have been practicing and how much experience they have in Family Court. Typically, a lawyer with a higher hourly rate will have enough experience to handle your case more efficiently, which is how the higher rate (for less time) may benefit you.
2 More Filing Fees
When a divorce is contested, you are likely to have multiple court hearings, usually on different motions. The most common is a Motion for Temporary Relief, which serves to establish the temporary right of the parties to live separately, spousal support obligations, child custody, and child support until a final divorce can be granted.
Other common motions in contested divorce cases include motions to compel discovery or quash subpoenas, or motions to appoint experts or seek an advance on your attorney’s fees.
3 Guardian ad Litem
In cases where there is a dispute about custody, visitation, or the best interests of a child, a Family Court judge is likely to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to investigate. S.C. Code Section 63-3-810 gives the Family Court judge the authority to make such an appointment.
The Guardian ad Litem is an additional cost related to South Carolina divorces, even if you follow our guidance on minimizing the expense.
As we have written before, there are several kinds of experts who can help accomplish your divorce goals. If your divorce case involves either party being self-employed, or either parent claiming the other has mental health conditions, then it is likely you will need to hire an expert to help your lawyer. These experts can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a divorce in SC.
5 Depositions & Court Reporters
At some point in your divorce case, it may be necessary to take the deposition of a witness, which is permitted by Rule 30, SCRCP. Depositions are one of the most expensive discovery tools available.
Depositions are expensive because your lawyer must prepare to ask relevant, meaningful questions of the witness. The easier it looks, the more time your lawyer spent preparing, and the more that preparation is likely to have cost you.
Additionally, a court reporter must be present for each deposition to transcribe every word of the questions asked and the answers given. At minimum, the court reporter charges for the time they are present for the deposition and, if you order the transcript, then the court reporter will charge for its preparation. The total cost of a transcript depends on how many pages it is and how quickly you ask for it to be prepared.
How Mandatory Mediation and the “365-Day Rule” Affect the Cost of Divorce in South Carolina
Since 2006, South Carolina Family Court has had some version of the “365-day rule.” Generally speaking, this is a requirement for Family Court cases to be resolved within 365 days, if at all possible. The most recent version of the rule was issued by Order of the South Carolina Supreme Court on August 27, 2014.
On January 1, 2016, again by issuance of an Order from the South Carolina Supreme Court, attendance at mandatory mediation became a requirement in South Carolina Family Court. It later became part of Rule 5(g), SCADR. Though mediation is often a useful step in the divorce process, frequently spouses do not plan for the cost of mediation as part of their divorce.
Currently, the combination of the “365-day” and “mandatory mediation” rules means that you must attend mandatory mediation before you can request a contested divorce trial be scheduled, and – to avoid dismissal of your divorce case due to inactivity – you must submit your trial request within 365 days of the case being filed. Knowing how to move your case forward, and the costs of doing so, is an important part of the divorce process in South Carolina.
A Divorce Lawyer Can Help
The divorce process can be complicated, and even though there are ways to research the cost of divorce online, like our Divorce Cost Estimator, sometimes the best idea is to get advice from an experienced divorce lawyer. By simply having a consultation, you can get information about how much a South Carolina divorce lawyer costs, suggestions on how you can save money, and a guideline of the average cost based on your situation and the lawyers’ hourly rates.