Dec 11

Is Uncontested Divorce the Key to Making A Fresh Start or a Future Nightmare? Find Out Now

Written by: Megan Dell


Many people view an uncontested divorce as the first step on the path toward a fresh start after a marriage has run its course. They imagine an uncontested divorce like a smooth road trip with a friend. An uncontested divorce can seem easy at first, but there could be unexpected bumps along the way. 

While an uncontested divorce may be the key to unlocking a future of newfound freedom and possibilities, sometimes it is also used by one spouse to take advantage of the other. This guide will provide valuable insights into the process, timeline, costs, and legal considerations involved in obtaining an uncontested divorce, empowering you to make informed decisions as you move forward.

spouses returning their wedding rings after signing divorce papers

Key Takeaways

  • Navigating an uncontested divorce in Charleston, SC offers advantages such as cost-effectiveness
  • The process involves filing paperwork with the court, serving your spouse, drafting a settlement agreement and attending a final hearing
  • Factors to consider include residency requirements, waiting periods for reflection, and hiring an attorney to ensure legal rights are represented

Navigating Uncontested Divorce in Charleston, SC

Uncontested divorce presents an advantage over contested divorce due to its relative simplicity and cost-effectiveness. This process becomes straightforward and more time-efficient when both parties reach an agreement on all major issues, including:

Uncontested divorces, being less confrontational, can also help maintain a cordial relationship between ex-partners.

Apart from the monetary savings, uncontested divorces also offer more privacy due to the limited court involvement. While it is not always possible for all couples to pursue an uncontested divorce, those who can reach an agreement on all the issues are well-positioned to reap its benefits.

Marriage asset division during divorce process

Residency and Filing Prerequisites

Before proceeding with an uncontested divorce in Charleston, SC, understanding the residency and filing prerequisites is necessary. Here are the requirements:

  • If only one of you resides in South Carolina, one of you must have lived in the state for at least a year.
  • If both partners live in the state, a minimum of three months’ residency is required.
  • South Carolina also necessitates a one-year separation period, during which spouses live apart.

Once the residency and separation requirements are met, the process entails filing a petition for divorce (sometimes called a complaint) and paying the filing fees with the local court. If the filing fee poses a financial burden, most jurisdictions allow for a fee waiver request to be submitted.

Drafting and Submitting Your Divorce Paperwork

Accurately drafting and submitting your divorce paperwork is key to the success of an uncontested divorce. Required forms like the Complaint for Divorce, Family Court Cover Sheet, and Summons for Divorce must be completed. Authenticating these forms requires signing them in the presence of a notary public. Consulting an attorney or using South Carolina Legal’s complimentary interactive program aids in obtaining the correct forms for your case.

Once the forms are completed and notarized, you will need to follow these steps to file for divorce:

  1. File the completed forms with the corresponding court.
  2. Serve the divorce papers to your spouse, ensuring they are aware of the proceedings and have a chance to respond.
  3. Seek guidance from an attorney on the applicable legal regulations and complex matters, including delivering documents to your partner.

Signing paperwork as part of an uncontested divorce

Serving Your Spouse and Awaiting Response

The step of handing over divorce papers to your spouse is integral to the uncontested divorce process as it informs them of the proceedings and allows for a response. This is commonly done via certified mail, with a return receipt requested, or through a private process server or the sheriff’s office. After being served, your spouse must submit a response or make an appearance at a scheduled court hearing.

If your spouse fails to respond or appear, the court will assess your request and issue a corresponding verdict. While an attorney’s role in an uncontested divorce may be less involved than in a contested case, their counsel can still be invaluable in navigating the legal landscape and ensuring a smooth process.

The Uncontested Divorce Timeline in Charleston

The duration of an uncontested divorce in Charleston is subject to factors like waiting periods and court schedules, but generally, it is quicker than a contested divorce. Uncontested divorces usually conclude within a few months. In Charleston, SC, however, the typical duration, inclusive of the mandatory waiting period, is one year.

It is important to keep in mind that the timeline can be influenced by how quickly you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all the issues involved. The sooner you can come to a consensus, the faster the process will be. As with any legal proceeding, patience and perseverance are essential, as unexpected delays may occur.

Friend supporting friend through divorce.

From Filing to Final Order: What to Expect

The progression from filing your divorce petition to obtaining your final order includes various significant steps. Here is an overview of the process:

  1. Submit the required documents to the court, such as the Complaint for Divorce, Family Court Cover Sheet, and Summons for Divorce.
  2. Solicit the family court to finalize the divorce and issue a final order.
  3. Attend a final divorce hearing, where the settlement agreement is recorded and approved by the court.

Once the hearing has taken place, you’ll need to complete the “Final Order of Divorce” and DHEC Report of Divorce forms. After these forms have been submitted, you’ll need to wait for the divorce order to be signed by the court. Once the order is signed, your divorce will be considered final.

The Role of Waiting Periods in Your Divorce

Waiting periods play a role in the uncontested divorce process, with some states requiring a specific amount of time to pass before the divorce can be finalized. The waiting period for a no-fault divorce is 365 days, while for a fault-based divorce, it is at least 90 days after filing.

The waiting period serves to provide spouses with ample time to reflect on their decisions, make necessary preparations, and possibly reconcile before the divorce is finalized. Understanding the role of waiting periods in your divorce will help you manage your expectations and navigate the process more effectively.

Divorce takes time. Time to wait can be a good time to reflect on what was and what's to come in the life after divorce

Cost Considerations for an Uncontested Divorce

Reflecting on the cost of an uncontested divorce forms a significant part of the process. Uncontested divorces are generally more affordable than contested ones. Court fees for an uncontested divorce typically range from around $100 to more than $400. If you opt to engage an attorney for your uncontested divorce, their fees may range from $1,500 to $15,000, depending on the case’s complexity and the attorney’s hourly rate.

Despite these costs, it’s still typically more cost-effective to get an uncontested divorce than to go through a contested divorce due to the reduced need for extensive courtroom time or legal procedures. By pursuing an uncontested divorce, you are likely to save both time and money, allowing you to focus on starting your new life. However, if you find yourself in the contested divorce process, be prepared for additional expenses and time-consuming procedures.

When to Consider Hiring an Attorney

Here are some pitfalls, or potential problems, you might face if you try to handle your divorce without a lawyer:

  1. Missed Details: Just like planning a trip, divorces involve lots of details. Legal paperwork can be tricky, and missing even a small detail might cause problems later on.
  2. Unfair Agreements: Without a lawyer, you might agree to things that aren’t fair or don’t consider your best interests. Lawyers are like guides, making sure you’re making decisions that are right for you.
  3. Long-Term Consequences: The decisions made during a divorce can affect your life for a long time. A lawyer can help you see the bigger picture and make choices that benefit you in the long run.
  4. Emotional Stress: Divorce is already emotionally challenging. Handling it alone can add stress because you might feel overwhelmed by legal processes. Lawyers provide support and experience to make it easier for you.
  5. Legal Jargon: Legal documents can be like a foreign language. Lawyers understand this language and can translate it for you, making sure you know exactly what you’re agreeing to.
  6. Changing Circumstances: Life can be unpredictable. Without legal guidance, you might not anticipate changes that could impact your divorce agreement in the future. Lawyers help you plan for the unexpected.
  7. Court Rejections: If your paperwork isn’t done correctly, the court might reject it, causing delays and extra headaches. Lawyers are skilled in preparing documents that meet legal standards.
  8. Not Knowing Your Rights: Everyone has rights during a divorce. A lawyer helps you understand and protect your rights, ensuring you get what you deserve.

Engaging an attorney for an uncontested divorce, while not required, can be beneficial for:

  • Understanding your legal rights
  • Ensuring accurate completion of all paperwork
  • Guiding you on relevant legal regulations
  • Assisting in managing complex issues, such as delivering documents to your partner
  • Negotiating and drafting the divorce agreement, covering aspects like asset division, child custody, and spousal support.

If your spouse has engaged the services of an attorney to draft a settlement agreement, it is highly recommended that you procure your own legal counsel to review the agreement. This will ensure that your interests are adequately represented, and any potential issues are addressed before finalizing the divorce.

Even an uncontested divorce takes time to get finalized

Crafting a Fair and Binding Settlement Agreement

A just and binding divorce settlement agreement forms the basis of a successful uncontested divorce. This agreement should cover the division of marital property and debts, along with child custody and parenting time arrangements. Both parties must collaborate to reach a consensus on these matters, which can pose challenges but offers rewards in the long term.

Reaching a fair and binding settlement agreement requires open communication, cooperation, and a willingness to compromise. By focusing on the best interests of all parties involved, you can create an agreement that sets the foundation for a positive future.

Division of Marital Property and Debts

In an uncontested divorce, marital property and debts should be divided based on mutual agreement, considering factors like the length of the marriage and each spouse’s contributions. Marital property includes assets like homes, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, and personal belongings acquired during the marriage. Debts are divided fairly and equitably, if not necessarily equally, between the spouses, based on factors like each spouse’s financial circumstances and the marriage’s duration.

It’s essential to seek counsel from a family law attorney to comprehend how debt division may be applicable to your particular situation. With the right guidance, you can ensure a fair and equitable division of marital property and debts, laying the groundwork for a smooth transition to post-divorce life.

Determining Child Custody and Parenting Time

Child custody and parenting time are pivotal elements of any divorce involving children. In an uncontested divorce, sorting out these arrangements requires formulating a parenting plan detailing each parent’s responsibilities and rights, alongside a schedule for the child’s time with each parent. The child’s best interests should always be prioritized, with considerations given to factors like the child’s preference, instances of domestic violence, religion, and other legal considerations.

To create an effective parenting plan, both you and your ex-spouse should communicate openly, consider the needs and schedules of both parents and prioritize the well-being of your children. It may be wise to seek professional guidance if needed to ensure the best possible outcome for your family.

If you and your soon-to-be ex spouse can agree, an uncontested divorce might be a good thing.

Finalizing Your Uncontested Divorce in Charleston

Having diligently worked through the uncontested divorce process, the concluding step is to attend the final hearing in the divorce proceeding and obtain your divorce judgment from the court. This significant event signifies the formal termination of your marriage and the commencement of your new life as an individual.

While the process may have been challenging at times, finalizing your uncontested divorce in Charleston is a testament to your resilience and determination. With the legal matters behind you, you are free to focus on rebuilding your life and embracing the opportunities that lie ahead.

Attending the Final Hearing

The final hearing for an uncontested divorce is a pivotal point in the process. At the hearing, you will present your settlement agreement to the judge, address any questions they might have, and receive their approval. It’s necessary to bring all required documents, such as the Divorce Complaint, Summons, and any other relevant court documents related to your divorce proceedings.

While attending the final hearing may be a nerve-wracking experience, it is important to remember that this is the culmination of all your hard work and determination. By confidently presenting your case and addressing any questions or concerns raised by the judge, you can obtain the divorce judgment and move forward with your life.

Receiving Your Divorce Judgment

Obtaining your divorce judgment marks the final step in the uncontested divorce process. This judgment officially ends your marriage and covers the terms and conditions of the divorce, including:

Once the court signs the order, your divorce is officially finalized.

To obtain a copy of your divorce judgment, you can contact the clerk of the county or city where you got divorced. They will provide information on how to order a copy, the cost, and the required information. With your divorce judgment in hand, you can confidently embark on the next chapter of your life.

Hiring a Divorce Lawyer for an Uncontested Divorce in South Carolina

In conclusion, an uncontested divorce in Charleston, SC, offers a more expedient and cost-effective path to ending a marriage when both parties can agree on all major issues. By understanding the process, timeline, costs, and legal considerations involved, you can make informed decisions and work towards a fresh start. 

But if the road becomes bumpy, hiring a divorce lawyer can be like having a seasoned road trip buddy – she can navigate the twists and turns, helping you reach your destination smoothly. While handling an uncontested divorce yourself might seem doable, having a legal guide can make the journey much safer and more secure.

schedule a consultation