Divorce: Know the Basics


With the possibility of hope and promise for the future, thoughts often turn to resolving overdue personal issues, which often can include domestic relations. Domestic relations, a legal term, describes an area of law that includes separation and divorce from marriage, child custody and support, alimony and name changes.

Child Custody and Support
When a child’s parents are either living separately and apart or have divorced, a family court can issue an order determining the rights and obligations of each parent as it relates to the child, including which parent has physical and legal custody, visitation terms and whether either parent is responsible for financial support for the child, typically known as child support. When deciding such issues, the family court will primarily consider what is in the child’s best interest, and as the child’s needs change or as the parents’ circumstances change, the family court always retains the ability to modify the terms of its order relating to the child.

An application for change in custody or to modify a child support obligation can be made with the family court upon a significant change in circumstances, which may include a relocation or a loss or increase of income. When deciding such an application, the family court will typically appoint a guardian to investigate the parents and child and submit a report to the family court. As with the original determinations, the family court will primarily consider the child’s best interests in deciding such applications.

Alimony is a substitute for support normally provided during the marriage. The general purpose of alimony is to place the supported spouse in a similar position as to that during the marriage. Alimony may be for a loss in the standard of living, loss of earnings for care of children or third parties, and loss due to investment in the other spouse’s earning capacity.

One must request alimony in the legal proceeding with the family court. Alimony may be awarded on a permanent or temporary basis. There are several types of alimony, including periodic, lump sum, rehabilitative, reimbursement and separate maintenance and support. Depending on the circumstances, alimony may be amended or terminated related to death, remarriage, cohabitation with another and changed circumstances.

Marriage, Separation and Divorce
Typically, in order to become married in South Carolina a couple requests a marriage license from the probate court, which is then completed by an officiant, which can include members of the clergy and witnesses. Once the “I dos” are said, the license is filed with the probate court. From that day forward the couple remains married until either death or a family court granting an order of divorce, typically called a divorce decree.

A divorce may be ordered by the family court based upon several grounds, including living separately and apart for more than a year, adultery, habitual intoxication, physical cruelty, and desertion. Although there is no “legal separation” in South Carolina, if a married couple is living separately and apart from one another either party may seek an order of separate maintenance and support from the family court, which spells out each party’s responsibilities to one another.

The foregoing is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. For further information and advice specific to a particular situation, please feel free to contact Naert and DuBois, LLC at www.LowcountryLegal.com or (843) 686-5500 for a free consultation.

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