Experienced Spartanburg Divorce Attorneys
In South Carolina, there are five grounds for divorce. Four are considered “fault” grounds. If you wish to file for divorce based on a fault ground, you should be prepared to demonstrate that your spouse has committed adultery or physical cruelty, abuses alcohol or drugs, or has deserted you (for more than one year). For a no-fault divorce, South Carolina law requires that a couple lives in separate residences for a minimum of 12 months with no reconciliation. If you wish to file a family court action but you have no fault grounds and have not yet been separated for a year, you may file to request a Decree of Separate Maintenance.
The papers initially filed with the court to start a divorce or separation include what’s known as a complaint. The complaint states the grounds for the divorce or separation and how the filing party wishes to proceed with financial, property, and child custody matters.
Once the pleadings are filed, your attorney will arrange to serve them upon your spouse. Your spouse will then have 30 days to answer the complaint once he or she receives it. The response, also called the answer, states agreement or disagreement with the provisions of the complaint as well as how he or she would like to proceed.
If there are temporary issues to be determined, like which party will live in the house, how parenting time with any children will be shared, and how temporary finances will be handled, a motion for temporary relief is usually filed with the initial pleadings. A temporary hearing will usually be scheduled for 3-6 weeks after filing, at which time a judge will decide on the temporary issues unless the parties are able to reach an agreement on them beforehand.
Next, you and your spouse may exchange financial and other information to help determine how the property and debt of your marriage should be divided, as well as decide on alimony, child support, and custody. If custody or visitation issues are contested, a Guardian ad Litem may be appointed to investigate the best interests of your children. If you both agree on the terms of your case, you can settle out of court. If not, the case will go to trial. Whether or not your case gets to that point, your divorce attorney at Cate Law Firm, P.A. will diligently represent your interests in family court every step of the way.
Child Custody Disputes
Making the decision to end a marriage is difficult enough when you and your spouse agree on everything. It can be even more frustrating and heart-wrenching when you can’t agree on who should have custody of your children or how time should be shared. Judges in South Carolina family courts consider the best interests of the children over the wishes of either of the divorcing parents. Some of the factors they evaluate include:
- The temperament and developmental needs of the child;
- The capacity and willingness of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
- The preferences of each child, depending on their age;
- The relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings, and any other person, including a grandparent, who may significantly affect the best interest of the child;
- The actions of each parent to encourage a parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, as is appropriate, along with any efforts by either parent to involve the child in the parents’ dispute or to disparage the other parent in front of the child;
- The ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community environments;
- The stability of the child’s existing and proposed residences;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- The existence of any domestic violence or child abuse or neglect in either home;
- Whether one parent has relocated more than one hundred miles from the child’s primary residence in the past year unless the parent relocated for safety reasons.
If your child custody case goes to court, your attorney from Cate Law Firm, P.A. will present evidence to support the custody and visitation scheme that makes the most sense for your family.
Keep in mind that joint custody doesn’t necessarily mean that each parent has the children 50 percent of the time. It’s more common for both parents to have joint legal custody, which means each has input into educational, medical, extracurricular, religious, and other important decisions concerning the children. Under a joint legal custody scheme, the children may still reside primarily with one parent and have a regular visitation schedule with the other.
Alimony and Child Support
Either the husband or the wife can request alimony if the situation warrants it. Alimony may be awarded as a lump sum or in periodic installments. It can be short-term, where a receiving spouse needs money to go back to school in an effort to become self-supporting, or it can be a more permanent arrangement, which may last until either party dies or the receiving party remarries or lives with a romantic partner for a period of time. Some of the factors judges consider when deciding whether to grant or deny alimony include:
- Length of marriage
- Age of each spouse
- Physical and emotional health of each
- Educational background and employment history of each
- Standard of living established during the marriage
- Current and estimated future earning power and expenses of each spouse
- Custody arrangement and assets awarded to each party
- Other support obligations of either party
- Tax consequences (since alimony is taxable income)
- Whether either spouse has committed marital fault (although adultery is the only absolute bar to receipt of alimony)
Along with or apart from alimony, child support is another financial issue to be determined in a divorce where minor children are involved. Some of the factors which influence child support calculations include physical custody arrangements, gross income of each parent, the number of children, and expenses such as child care, and health insurance. Click here to see the South Carolina DSS Child Support Calculator. Child support typically ends for each child at age 18 or graduation from high school, whichever occurs later. College support may be granted under certain circumstances, and child support for a disabled child may be indefinite.
Division of Property and Debts
Family law judges in South Carolina aim for an equitable division of marital property and debts. This doesn’t always mean a 50-50 split, though. There are numerous factors which may influence the division and how it is to be made. The definition of property includes personal property items such as furniture, cars, and financial accounts, as well as real property such as houses and land. Debts can include things like credit card bills, mortgages, and other loans. Although there are exceptions, property and debt are generally marital if they were accumulated during the time of the parties’ marriage and the date a family court action was filed. Things like gifts from third parties and inheritances are excluded from this category, however. Only assets and debts that are marital are divisible in family court.
In determining how to equitably divide marital assets and debts, some of the factors South Carolina family law judges consider include:
- Length of the marriage
- Income and earning potential of each spouse (and each party’s opportunity for future acquisition of assets)
- The need of either spouse for additional training or education to achieve his or her income potential
- Whether alimony is awarded
- Existence of marital fault
- Age and general health of each spouse
- The financial contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital assets
When you meet with your family law attorney at Cate Law Firm, P.A. for the first time, we encourage you to bring a list and value of all major assets along with whose name they are in and when they were acquired. You can also give us a head start by providing us with information about all known marital debts, including loan and credit card balances. To help us understand the right approach to the financial aspects of your separation, please provide us with any documents you may have regarding your or your spouse’s income, like W-2s, tax returns, or recent pay stubs.
Request Your Consultation Today
The Cate Law Firm, P.A. is located in Spartanburg, South Carolina and serves the surrounding communities of Upstate South Carolina, practicing exclusively in the area of family law. Attorneys Ruth Cate, Rachel Brough, and Margaret Nowell have decades of combined experience in South Carolina family law. If you are going through a divorce or separation, or are involved in a child custody dispute, contact Cate Law Firm, P.A. for an immediate consultation. All three are dedicated attorneys who continue to devote their careers to the practice of family law. Contact The Cate Law Firm, P.A. at (864) 585-4226 or visit us online.