The Economic Cost of Divorce
Even when a couple is unhappily married for many years, the fear of the economic consequences of divorce may keep them together much longer than is healthy for anyone in the family. This is understandable when you consider that a couple who once acted as a joint financial unit must find a way to support two separate homes. When divorce becomes inevitable, it’s important for both spouses to consider the financial ramifications so they can plan for separate lives.
Average Cost of a Divorce in South Carolina
Besides the splitting of assets and debts, and one party potentially paying child support and/or alimony, divorcing couples must consider how much the process costs. According to data published by Martindale-Nolo Research, obtaining a divorce in South Carolina typically costs between $4,000 and $28,000, with the average attorney fees running $10,000.
The report also indicates that the average cost of an uncontested divorce in South Carolina is $12,600. When the spouses have minor children together, that jumps to $18,900. A divorce with alimony issues averages $17,400 while one with property division averages $17,700. Your attorney fees may include such things as time spent preparing your divorce case, court filings, copying fees for sharing documents, compensation for expert witnesses, and compensation for consultants such as custody evaluators, financial analysts, and appraisers.
Definition of Property in South Carolina
State law considers all assets and liabilities as property, whether marital or separate. In a divorce, the most common types of property that a judge or the couple themselves must divide include the marital home, intangible benefits such as retirement, bank accounts, and businesses, and personal property such as jewelry, cars, and furniture. Family law judges consider the monetary and non-monetary contributions of each spouse when recommending specific divisions of property. Non-monetary contributions include things like childcare and homemaking, done by one spouse to enable the other spouse to perform a job that makes more money for the household.
Dividing Assets and Debts with Your Spouse
If you and your spouse can agree on a fair and equitable division of property, assets, and debts, a family law judge will normally accept it. However, he or she will decide the division in your divorce decree if the two of you cannot agree. Two laws in South Carolina that you should know regarding asset and debt division are equitable apportionment and nonmarital property. Equitable apportionment or division means that the court makes every attempt to equitably divide marital property. Nonmarital property is anything a spouse owned before the marriage, inherited, was gifted by someone other than their spouse, or that is excluded by contract. Nonmarital property is not subject to equitable division by the family court. It instead belongs solely to the spouse who owns it. Bear in mind, however, that under certain circumstances nonmarital property may be transmuted into marital property.
Keep in mind that equitable division doesn’t necessarily mean that each spouse receives exactly half. A family court judge considers numerous factors when dividing debt, property, and other assets. These include:
- How many years the spouses have been married
- The current age of each spouse
- Current value of each asset or debt
- Whether either spouse committed marital misconduct
- The income and earning potential of each spouse
- The overall health of each spouse
- Whether the spouses have access to retirement savings
- Cost each spouse incurs to maintain separate property
- Tax consequences of taking over an asset or debt
- Debts and expenses of each spouse
- Custody arrangements if the spouses share minor children
A judge must divide all marital property and debt, so be certain that you have a handle on all the marital assets or debts you and your spouse own or owe. If you don’t know all of this information, tell your attorney and he or she can request the information by subpoena or through the discovery process. You should also keep note of nonmarital property that you wish to keep as your own. If one or both of you used marital funds to incur credit card debt or made poor investments, a judge typically assigns responsibility for the debts to both parties. However, severe financial irresponsibility such as habitual gambling by one party could skew the division of assets more favorably to the spouse who is not guilty of it.
We Can Help You Financially Prepare for Divorce
The Cate Law Firm understands that divorce is financially and emotionally overwhelming, no matter how amicable. We’re here to assist people in Spartanburg, South Carolina and the surrounding communities