Dec 27

The 5 Divorce Grounds in South Carolina You Need To Know Today

Written by: Megan Dell


The 5 Divorce Grounds in South Carolina are Cheating, Physical Abuse, Drunkenness, Abandonment, and Separation

An initial question for every divorce case is whether there are grounds for a divorce to be granted. Divorces can be granted on “fault grounds” or “no fault grounds” in South Carolina. Read on to learn more about fault divorce vs. no fault divorce in SC and specific grounds for divorce in South Carolina.

divorce grounds in South Carolina

Statutory Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina

As provided by S.C. Code Annotated Section 20-3-10, our Family Courts recognize five grounds for divorce:

  1. Adultery
  2. Desertion for a period of one year
  3. Physical cruelty
  4. Habitual drunkenness (or drug use)
  5. Living separate and apart for a period of one year

The first four grounds for divorce in SC are fault based grounds, which implies one spouse treated the other poorly.

Only the fifth option – living separate and apart for a period of one year – is considered a “no fault divorce” in South Carolina. Though no official data is tracked, this is likely the most common ground for divorce. 

What Does No Fault Divorce Mean?

For most of United States history, our public policy has been to encourage marriage and discourage divorce. In support of this policy, divorce proceedings in all states used to require demonstrating that one spouse was “at fault” for the breakdown of the marriage.

For example, one spouse would have to prove the other had engaged in misconduct by committing adultery or being physically cruel to file for divorce. Obviously, this made it hard for people to get divorced. 

As it became clearer these divorce processes prevented people from escaping unhappy marriages, it became more popular for states to allow “no fault” divorces. Instead of having to prove their spouse behaved badly, a person could simply decide to end the marriage.

When Did No Fault Divorce in South Carolina Start?

California was the first state to allow a “no fault divorce,” in 1969. South Carolina began allowing divorce on the ground of “continuous separation for a period in excess of one year” in 1979. This continues to be the most common ground for a no fault divorce in SC.

Divorce on Fault Grounds Remains Available

Though South Carolina now offers the option of no-fault divorce, there are still fault based grounds for divorce in SC, and they continue to be common causes of divorce.

  • If your spouse has engaged in an extramarital affair, you can get divorced by proving adultery.
  • If your spouse has engaged in a pattern of physical abuse that has made you afraid for your bodily safety, you can get divorced by proving physical cruelty.
  • If your spouse regularly consumes alcohol to excess, uses drugs, or abuse prescriptions, then you can get divorced by proving the pattern of their behavior.

Pros and Cons of Fault and No-Fault Divorce

In South Carolina, if you can prove a fault ground for divorce, then the Family Court can grant a divorce as quickly as 90 days after the case is filed. However, because all other issues related to the marriage – like property division, alimony, child custody, and child support – must also be resolved before the divorce is granted, it is uncommon for any divorce to be granted so quickly.

In contrast, one benefit of filing for a no-fault divorce is that it may make your case easier to resolve, or even lead to an uncontested divorce.

Deciding on the Right Strategy for Your Divorce in SC

No-fault divorce has its pros and cons, but it is not the right choice for every situation. An experienced divorce lawyer can help identify whether a fault divorce or no fault divorce is the best option for you.

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