THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC FAMILY LAW AND DIVORCE ATTORNEY
“How long does it take to get a divorce in South Carolina?” . . . Many times, a client will be asking this question before I am even able to take a seat behind the desk. About two seconds after the “Nice to Meet You” and introduction this question comes flying out. It is at this point that I pump the brakes and tell the client that best of all lawyer answers . . . it depends.
Generally, two things are at work when trying to anticipate the date of final divorce. The first is what grounds are you trying to use to justify the divorce. Second, the South Carolina Family Court Rules and all the underlying administrative rules that control the flow of cases through the court system.
ONE YEAR SEPARATION – NO FAULT DIVORCE
If you are seeking a divorce based upon a one -year separation, then the obvious answer would be that you and your spouse would need to have been separated for at least one year prior to getting a final divorce. Now this does not necessarily mean you can't file the action for a year, it means the Court can't issue an order of Divorce until the year of separation has been satisfied.
The South Carolina Supreme Court, in an administrative order, has declared that any Family Court action in South Carolina must have a request made for a Final Hearing with 365 days of the filing of the suit. So, if you do the math in your head, you can literally file for a divorce in the days immediately following a separation, if the final hearing is requested by your attorney within the first calendar year of the date of filing for the divorce. So, you can separate on January 2nd, and if the attorney requests a final hearing by January 1st the following year, you are set. Remember, the key is not that the final hearing must be held within the year, it must be requested within the year. I always start with this conservative answer to let the client know that this is not exactly like ordering delivery from Domino's Pizza, it may take a year or longer to get to a final hearing.
At this point . . . I will often get this follow up . . . “Oh we have already been separated for two years, so how long do I have to wait?” Well, in a nutshell, the minimum wait is approximately 90 days. South Carolina Family Court Rules do not allow a final hearing to be had in any divorce proceeding prior to 90 days since the beginning of the Divorce suit. So, the answer at that point, not knowing anything else, is at least 90 days.
ADULTERY AND OTHER GROUNDS OF FAULT BASED DIVORCE
South Carolina recognizes four fault based divorce grounds: adultery, habitual drunkenness, physical cruelty, and desertion. Without getting into the weeds about what is needed to prove these grounds, any fault based divorce action in South Carolina will not be finalized until at least 90 days after the filing of the divorce suit (in recognition of the 90-day rule cited above).
WHY IS MY DIVORCE TAKING SO LONG?
If is not uncommon for some divorce cases and family court actions to be active in the Family Court system for up to two years. How does this happen? The answer is simple . . . They are fighting over everything!!
The number one issue that causes delays in a divorce action AND the number one reason that legal fees and attorney fees sky-rocket in a case is that the parties are fighting over every possible issue. Child custody, visitation, alimony, child support, property division, . . . each of these issues is a potential delay mechanism that can extend a divorce action into months and sometime years.
It is always incumbent upon me, as the advocate and counselor for my clients, to listen carefully to the priorities of the client. Only by listening to the client and understanding where we can be flexible and where we must make a stand can I, or any attorney for that matter, even begin to try and answer that most difficult question of “How Long Will It Take to Get Divorced.”
THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - YOUR CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
There is a right way and a wrong way to navigate through a separation and a subsequent divorce. I implore that you get assistance of a Charleston, South Carolina Family Law Attorney to help you travel this path and make sure all your legal options and rights are noted and disclosed.
If you live in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, 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 and scheduled your free Family Law consultation today.