South Carolina has five grounds for divorce which are found in S.C. Code 20-3-10. In order to obtain a divorce in South Carolina, you must have one of the following five grounds for divorce:
1) Adultery: A party does not have to physically see the act of adultery to file on this fault based ground. Instead, a party can prove adultery based on circumstantial evidence. Often times, a private investigator is hired to corroborate the suspected adultery by the spouse.
2) Physical Cruelty: In order to obtain a divorce based on physical cruelty, a party must be able to prove that their spouse’s conduct created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm. There must be a physical injury or conduct that would make a person think physical injury was imminent.
3) Habitual Drunkenness or Drug Abuse: The key to obtaining a divorce on this ground is to prove that your spouse’s drinking or drug use is habitual. The evidence must support that your spouse frequently uses alcohol or drugs and that the breakdown of the marriage is caused by the habitual drinking or drug abuse.
4) Desertion: If a spouse has deserted his or her spouse for a period of a year, this shall serve as a ground for divorce in South Carolina. From a practical standpoint, because South Carolina recognizes a no-fault divorce based on the same time period of one year, desertion as a fault basis for divorce is not commonly plead.
5) One Year Continuous Separation: Parties seeking to obtain a divorce without one of the four fault-based grounds above must live separate and apart from each other for a one year period. The key to obtaining a divorce on this ground is that the separation of the parties must be continuous. If parties reconcile or remain living under the same roof, there is no basis for divorce under this ground.
Separate Support and Maintenance
South Carolina does not recognize legal separation. Once parties have separated, but before they have reached one year of continuous separation, either party may file an action for Separate Support and Maintenance. A Separate Support and Maintenance action allows parties to begin litigation to address pertinent issues such as: division of property, child support, child custody, and alimony (or support). Most of the time, a Separate Support and Maintenance action will be filed at the onset of a couple’s separation.