In some states, you can go to court and be given a legal separation, but there is no such thing as legal separation in SC and no “separation-agreement-filed-with-court” when you are looking at getting a divorce in South Carolina. In this state, you are either “married” or “divorced,” but there is no marital status that is in between, even when you start divorce proceedings or filing for separation in South Carolina, you are legally married until divorce papers are signed. In South Carolina, file for divorce doesn’t mean you are officially separated.
The confusion is often because a couple can be separated (and you must be to get a no-fault divorce). In a nutshell, there is a difference between your living situation and your marital status: you can live separately from your spouse, but you are still legally married.
This distinction can confuse people when they are living separately from each other, not in the same house, and want to begin dating other people. Even when not living with your spouse, you can’t have a legal separation in SC. If you have the question “is it adultery if you’re separated” the answer is yes. Read on to learn why!
For example, if Jane and John decide they want to divorce so John moves out. Now, Jane and John are separated (in that they are living separately from each other), but they are still married. After six months of living separately, Jane meets Bob and wants to start dating him. Why is that a problem? Because Jane is still married to John, even though they aren’t living together anymore.
If Jane begins dating Bob before she and John have formally signed a property settlement agreement, or before the Court has issued a final order for separate support and maintenance or approved a marital settlement agreement, Jane will have committed adultery, which would prohibit her from receiving alimony. Of course it goes without saying that you can not remarry before a final divorce order has been issued to avoid bigamous marriage.
Many clients do not understand that moving out does not change their marital status, and think they are “legally separated” and have proof of separation, therefore, can date like they did when they were single. This is simply not true, as there is no such thing as legal separation in SC. In fact, a family court judge might consider dating after separating to be adultery.
Be sure you understand the South Carolina law before starting divorce proceedings as it will affect your signing a divorce settlement agreement. If you have questions about whether and when can you get a legal annulment in SC because you want your marriage annulled, read this. In a case of a do-it-yourself divorce, this becomes even more important as you won’t have legal counsel to remind you!