Preparing for Divorce: Steps to Take During a Divorce in South Carolina
Divorce is a complicated and difficult process. From the moment you decide to dissolve your marriage until the divorce is finalized, there will be many steps to take, and many peaks and valleys that you will go through. The first thing you need to do is decide that this is best for everyone and prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to go through the process.
The goal for most divorcing spouses is to complete the marriage dissolution in the most amicable and cost-efficient way possible. Unfortunately, this is not always an easy thing to do. If you have reached the point where you and your spouse are going to part ways, it is highly likely that there is at least some strain in the relationship. With this in mind, you will need to prepare thoroughly and put together a strong support team to help ensure that your interests are fully protected and that you emerge from this process in the best possible position to start your new life.
Steps to Take in Preparing for a South Carolina Divorce
Once you have prepared for the divorce emotionally, there are several other steps you need to take to get ready for this process:
Separation or Grounds for Divorce
In South Carolina, you can file for a no-fault divorce, or you can file based on one of the acceptable grounds. These may include physical abuse, desertion, adultery, and habitual drunkenness. If you are seeking a no-fault divorce, you must be separated from your spouse for a period of at least one year. The year starts as soon as the couple begins living apart from each other. If you are utilizing one of the grounds for divorce, you are not required to separate from your spouse for a year and can obtain a final divorce as early as three months from the time you file. However, you must show sufficient proof that the grounds have been met, and this is likely to be more complicated than pursuing a no-fault divorce.
If there are no fault grounds but you and your spouse have not yet been separated for one year, you can also file for a Decree of Separate Maintenance. This is still a final order that determines applicable issues of custody, visitation, support, and property division. Once you have been separated for one year, you can then file for a simple divorce after all other issues relating to your marriage have been resolved in the Separate Maintenance decree. In the alternative, if you reach your one year mark during the course of the Separate Maintenance action, you can change the nature of your case to a divorce action.
Organizing for your divorce is a daunting task in and of itself. You will need to gather all of your financial and tax records, information on house and car values, retirement and bank accounts, insurance policies, debts, etc. Create a thorough list of all your financial information and keep it in a safe place outside of your home if you are still sharing a home with your spouse. You might also want to consider renting a post office box or some other type of outside mailing address that your spouse does not have access to. This can be used for all of your private mail, such as correspondence from your attorney and accounts that are in your name only. If you are moving out of your marital home, be sure to register for mail forwarding right away to be sure you’re able to receive all your personal mail after you move.
Here are a couple other things to consider during the organization phase. You might have some financial challenges during the divorce process, so it makes sense to open a separate checking and/or savings account and start putting away money to get you through. Another thing you may want to start doing is keeping a divorce journal. This will be especially important if there are child custody issues at stake. Keep detailed records about your day-to-day involvement in the lives of your children, as well as how involved your spouse is and other behaviors your spouse engages in that are worth noting.
While keeping a journal is a good idea, it is always best to stay off of social media as much as possible. Emotions can run high during a divorce, and it is easy to say things on social media while venting your frustration that you might regret later. Social media posts are generally “discoverable” in divorce cases, and they could be used against you by your ex. Make a plan to seriously limit your social media activity until the divorce process is over.
Assembling your Team
To help ensure that the divorce process goes smoothly, you will need a team of experts to provide guidance and support. The process will be stressful, confusing and overwhelming at times, and you will often need to rely on your team to help get you through it. Assembling your team starts with choosing the right divorce attorney. Your divorce attorney and their legal team will be able to fully assess your situation and help determine what other experts are needed during this process.
Aside from your attorney, members of your divorce team may include:
- Financial Advisors
- Forensic Accountants
- Tax Professionals
- Real Estate Agents
- Business Appraisers
- Parenting Evaluators
- Private Investigators
Working through the Issues
There are numerous potential issues that will need to be resolved during the divorce process, depending on your specific circumstances. It is best to consider these issues ahead of time with your legal counsel and other members of your divorce team. Some of the most common issues you will need to look at include:
- Marital Assets and Debts: In South Carolina, marital property is property that was accumulated while the couple was married. This can become complicated at times, however, because property that was brought into a marriage can become commingled with marital assets, making it difficult to untangle the two. Have a full list of everything you own and owe together as a couple, so you can go over this information with your team. The law calls for a fair and equitable distribution of marital property. That said, the courts will likely begin with the presumption of a 50/50 split.
- Alimony/Spousal Support: When couples separate, one of the spouses may need financial help to cover living expenses and other costs. Alimony is awarded based on numerous factors, and your attorney can help determine whether it will be appropriate in your case. It should also be noted that temporary alimony can be requested during the separation and before the divorce is finalized. Being able to show your attorney tax returns and/or other proof of income will help him or her guide you on reasonable expectations as to this issue.
- Child Support: If there are children involved, support will be necessary to provide for their well-being. Child support is calculated according to a predetermined formula that takes numerous factors into account. The goal is for the children to maintain (as closely as possible) the established standard of living prior to the divorce. If you believe child support will be an issue in your case, you can help prepare your attorney by gathering proof of incomes for you and your spouse, as well as paperwork showing the monthly costs of daycare and health insurance (the portion just attributable to the child/children). If your spouse is ordered to pay child support for another child, it will be helpful to know that figure as well.
- Child Custody and Visitation: Child custody can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce, especially when there is a disagreement about which parent should have primary custody of the child. It is always best to come to a peaceable and workable arrangement with your spouse regarding custody and visitation. Otherwise, it could turn into a long and drawn-out court battle that is costly financially and hard on the children. If your children are struggling to transition during your divorce, it may be advisable to seek the help of a trained and licensed counselor or psychologist to help them through the process and give them the space to talk about their feelings, without involving them in your divorce litigation.
- Tax Implications: Many divorcing spouses run into unexpected surprises at tax time. Divorce can have numerous tax consequences, and it is best to review your financial situation with a tax professional who can help you work through these issues ahead of time.
Speak with a Compassionate South Carolina Divorce Attorney
If you have made the decision to get a divorce, it is important to be fully prepared for this arduous process. At the Cate Law Firm, we have represented numerous clients for divorce in South Carolina. We have extensive experience in this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to provide skilled legal guidance and moral support during this difficult time. For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at (864) 585-4226 or send us a message through our online contact form.