5 Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina

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Unlike a marriage in South Carolina, in which parties must simply provide their personal information and pay a fee for the marriage license, in order to get a divorce in the state of South Carolina, a couple must enter a much more legally-intensive process.

In fact, in order to even file for divorce in South Carolina, a divorce-seeking party must first state the grounds for which they are seeking divorce. South Carolina recognizes five different grounds for divorce, listed below:


  1. Adultery

The first grounds for divorce that is listed in South Carolina Code Section 20-3-10 is adultery. Adultery is not explicitly defined in South Carolina Code, however, adultery is typically considered as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than that person’s spouse. Not only does South Carolina code list adultery as one of the fault-based grounds for divorce, but Section 20-3-130 of code explains that committing adultery can also have an affect on an alimony award. Marital misconduct may also have an effect on how a court makes a determination about the division of property.


  1. Desertion for a Period of One Year

Another grounds for divorce is the desertion of a spouse by the other for a period of one year or more. It is important to keep in mind that in order for a divorce to successfully be pursued on the grounds of desertion, the party establish that a) the party who was deserted did not consent to the desertion and b) that the party who committed the act of desertion had no intent to return to the home. As such, a party cannot file for divorce based on desertion for all instances. For example, a court would probably deny a divorce filed on the grounds of desertion for a spouse who was not at home because they were serving in the military.


  1. Physical Cruelty

The third grounds for divorce is physical cruelty. If a party is seeking a divorce based on physical cruelty, it will be important that they have evidence to prove this, such as statements from witnesses or families and friends about the physical cruelty, medical records, photograph evidence, or police reports.



  1. Habitual Drunkenness

A person may file for divorce if their spouse is a habitual drunk. As explained by South Carolina Code, the grounds is interpreted to include “habitual drunkenness caused by the use of any narcotic drug.” Like the other grounds for divorce, a spouse seeking divorce based on the habitual drunkenness of their spouse will need to produce evidence.


  1. Living Separate and Apart (No-Fault Grounds)

The fifth grounds for divorce in South Carolina is a no-fault grounds for divorce, and refers to a situation in which a divorce is sought by a party simply because they wanta divorce, not because their spouse has committed one of the acts of fault listed above. However, in order for divorce to be granted, the party must prove that they have lived separate and apart for a period of no less than one year. The statute reads that the parties must live separately without “cohabitation,” which means that a couple cannot spend any time together intimately during the one-year period for the grounds to be valid.


Understanding Grounds For Divorce and the Filing Process in South Carolina

If you are thinking about getting a divorce in South Carolina, you may have questions about whether or not you should file a fault-based divorce (if one of the fault situations listed above applies to you), or whether you should file a no-fault divorce. The answer is very personal, and may depend on your urgency to divorce, whether or not you believe yourself to be in physical harm (in the event of physical cruelty), and how proving fault may affect other issues in divorce, such as child custody, alimony, and property division.


At the offices of The Cate Law Firm, P.A., our experienced divorce and family law attorneys in South Carolina can help you to understand your options for filing for divorce, and the benefits of filing a fault vs. no-fault divorce. Before you file, please contact our law offices for a consultation with our knowledgeable lawyers. You can reach us to schedule your consultation today at 864-585-4226.

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