How Long Does it Take to Get A Divorce In South Carolina? No-Fault Versus Fault Grounds In South Carolina Family Court.

Posted by Jay McMillian | Jul 08, 2018 | 0 Comments


As a practicing Family Law attorney in Charleston, SC, clients will, very early in the process, ask me how long it will take them to get a divorce. Divorces in South Carolina Family Court can take anywhere from 90 days to well over a year or longer. How long it will take for you to get divorced in a South Carolina Family Court will be controlled by five specific factors:

  1. The preparation and procedure for filing for a divorce
  2. The grounds for divorce (Fault or No-Fault Grounds)
  3. Is the divorce is contested or uncontested
  4. The family court's docket 
  5. How the lawyers handle the divorce.


This may go without saying, but the first action that has to be completed in order to file for Divorce in South Carolina is to actually get to the Courthouse and file for divorce. In South Carolina, a divorce is a lawsuit that begins with the filing of a summons and complaint for divorce in the Family Court of the appropriate county. Once the Divorce suit has been filed with the clerk of family court, the summons and complaint have to be served on the other spouse. Once the other spouse has been served, the spouse who is served with divorce papers has 30 days to answer and to counterclaim. If the other spouse asserts a counterclaim, then the spouse who started the Divorce suit has 30 days to respond to the Divorce suit and "counterclaim" for any legal relief that they deem to be relevant. Therefore, when accounting for the time needed to retain an attorney, draft the Divorce summons and complaint, file with the Clerk of Court, serve upon the other spouse, and have an Answer filed by the other spouse, this process will take approximately 60 days.


Fault Based Divorce (Adultery, Habitual Drunkeness / Drug Use, Physical Abuse, Abandonment) – 90 Days – South Carolina law recognizes the 4 fault based grounds of Divorce listed above. An individual who is filing a divorce based upon a fault ground can file for Divorce as soon as the ground exists. (In theory, if you caught you spouse committing Adultery on Tuesday, you could file for Divorce on Wednesday). The only statutory time requirement on a fault based Divorce is that the parties must wait a minimum of 90 days from filing before requesting a final hearing (even if a settlement is reached).

No Fault Divorce (One Year Continuous Separation) - 365 Days – A Divorce that will be based upon one-year continuous separation of the parties can't be filed until the full separation period has passed, or one calendar year. A divorce based upon one-year continuous separation is the only no-fault grounds for divorce under South Carolina law. 

The McMillian Law Firm is known for compassionate and effective legal representation. Call us now at (843) 900-1306 or use the online form to schedule your free no-obligation case evaluation today.


The single most influential factor on determining how quickly you can get divorced is whether your divorce will be an un-contested case (you and your spouse agree on all issues of alimony, child support, marital asset distribution, etc.) or if the divorce will be contested. 

Uncontested Divorce – If both spouses agree on all relevant issues such as custody, child support, alimony, marital asset distribution and finances, then the divorce is “uncontested.” In my experience, most uncontested divorces are based on the no-fault ground of one year's separation. Therefore, if you are in an uncontested divorce that is based upon the no-fault grounds of one-year separation, by law you can request a final hearing once your spouse files an Answer to your divorce suit reaffirming that all issues have been settled. In these cases, sometimes a final hearing can be had within 60 days of filing, but more than likely it will be a minimum of 90 days due to the number of cases on the court docket. 

Contested Divorce – A contested divorce between spouses usually involves disputes about one of several divorce related issues including custody or visitation, alimony, child support, and marital property. Contested cases where spouses "go to war" with each other can often result in a divorce case that can extend to a year or even longer. 

Contested divorce cases become extended because they require formal discovery, depositions, and the issuance of subpoenas.  The discovery process, whether it involves written answers, oral depositions, or subpoenas for documents or attendance at court, and any subsequent motions related to these discovery requests, can extend a case for many months.


The relative speed that your case moves through the Family Court system depends on where you file for divorce. There are counties in South Carolina that have more resident family court judges to hear cases. There are counties that carry more court support staff or actually process a case faster than other counties. In addition to the county and how the court is processing cases in that county, another important factor is how long of a hearing will be required to adjudicate the case. It's common sense to understand that a request for a 15 minute hearing to resolve an uncontested divorce will be scheduled quicker than a request for a week long contested divorce trial.


A good lawyer is a lawyer who can look a client in the eye and be straight with them whether the news is good or bad. Another sign of a good lawyer is one who is always working towards a viable solution for the client versus bringing more animosity and stress to a case. In my professional opinion, a lawyer is not doing his or her job if they are not dedicating all efforts towards the resolution of the matters at hand. The lawyers job is to provide competent advice and be a steadying hand in time of high stress and confusion.

Clients often ask me if I am "an aggressive lawyer" or a lawyer who will take a spouse to the mat. There are times when I assert more pressure in case, especially where the facts support the position I'm taking versus the position asserted by the other party. However, I will never confuse being aggressive with encouraging clients to fight over all of the details of the divorce when a suitable solution can be had without such tactics. The unfortunate truth is the more the spouses fight during the divorce, the longer the divorce takes, and the more the lawyers get paid. None of those things help the resolution of a case for a client. 


Seeking a divorce from a spouse is a very nuanced event in Family Law that someone should not attempt to navigate without legal counsel by their side. A lack of understanding of the underlying law and necessary evidence to support your case can have tremendous ramifications on your future financial and emotional health. If you need immediate relief from the Family Court or need answers from a Charleston and Summerville Family Law Attorney, please call us immediately!!

If you live in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, North Charleston, Moncks Corner, James Island, West Ashley, Folly Beach, Johns Island, Walterboro, or any of the other fine communities of the South Carolina Low Country, do not wait another moment. Act now!! Contact The McMillian Law Firm at 843-900-1306 or email us at [email protected] and scheduled your free Family Law consultation today. 

About the Author

Jay McMillian

Background I chose to build my law practice in the areas of Car Accident and Personal Injury because these areas of the law are the most accurate reflection of my values and my upbringing. Being the son of a breakfast hostess and a retired US Army Sargent turned construction worker, the values instilled upon me by my par...


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The McMillian Law Firm

Attorney Jay McMillian operates a solo practice with an emphasis on two core principles. First, to provide competent legal advice in the areas of Auto Accident and Personal Injury Law to the people he is proudest to serve, the people of the South Carolina Low Country. Second, to provide the most personal and intimate service to each and every client and give them the attention and compassion that they deserve while going through the stress and strain of negotiating or litigating an injury claim. If you live in Charleston, Summerville, Mount Pleasant, Goose Creek, James Island, Walterboro, Moncks Corner, and you or someone you love has been injured by the negligence of another, please call Jay at The McMillian Law Firm today.

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