Legal Separation in South Carolina

In South Carolina, the concept of “legal separation” does not exist. Instead, the South Carolina Family Courts issue Orders of Separate Maintenance and Support. These orders contain specific details regarding child custody, visitation, support arrangements, as well as the management of marital assets and debts. It’s important to note that this order is only temporary and does not mark the end of the marriage or cover the issue of divorce.

Living Separately in South Carolina

To obtain a no-fault divorce in South Carolina, spouses must live separately for a period of one year. This means physically residing in different locations. Simply sleeping in separate bedrooms within the same house does not meet the requirements for living separately. Although not mandatory, obtaining an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support can be beneficial during this separation period. It helps protect the financial interests of both parties and assists in resolving visitation and custody matters.

Filing for an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support

Either spouse can initiate the process of obtaining an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support. This can be done if the parties are living separate and apart (in a no-fault situation), or if fault grounds can be proven.

The order addresses various issues, including child custody, visitation, support, who remains in the marital home, mortgage payments, joint accounts, allocation of marital debt, transfer of titles to personal property, spousal support, and health insurance.

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The Procedure for Filing

To file for an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support in Family Court, the plaintiff (the spouse initiating the process) files a Summons and Complaint for an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support, along with a Notice and Motion for Temporary Relief. These documents are then personally served upon the defendant (the other spouse or their attorney). The defendant has 30 days to respond by filing an Answer and Counterclaim, stating their desired outcome regarding the issues in the case. The case is then heard by a judge, who will make a decision or review and approve an agreement between the parties. This order will remain in effect until a final agreement is reached or until the trial.

Seeking Legal Advice

This information is provided as a general overview and should not be considered legal advice for any particular situation. If you require legal guidance, it is best to consult with a lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, you can contact the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, or at 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.

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