Grounds for Divorce
South Carolina Family Court requires there be a reason to allow a divorce. These reasons are usually referred to as "grounds" for divorce. South Carolina has both a no-fault ground for divorce and several fault grounds for divorce.
South Carolina no-fault divorce is based on the ground of "living separate and apart for at least one year."
The spouses must live in separate houses for at least one year before being granted a divorce on this ground. Additionally, they cannot reconcile their relationship (or, in other words, be sexually intimate) during that year of separation. If the couple resumes their sexual relationship, the period of separation must start over.
Fault Grounds for Divorce
The fault grounds for divorce in South Carolina are adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness or drug use, and desertion.
While everyone knows that adultery involves one spouse having a sexual relationship with a third person, proving adultery in South Carolina Family Court is a little different.
To successfully prove that the other spouse was unfaithful, you must show that the spouse (1) had the opportunity to commit adultery, and (2) is inclined with commit adultery. Usually opportunity can be proven by demonstrating that the spouse was alone in a private place with the third person, and inclination can be proven with evidence that the spouse was affectionate with the third person in public (holding hands, kissing, etc.).
Homosexual sex constitutes adultery in South Carolina.
Additionally, if a couple separates and one spouse begins dating again, the other can pursue a divorce on the grounds of adultery. In South Carolina, you are considered "married" until the divorce is granted (at a final hearing); therefore, adultery can be committed even after a couple separates.
To qualify for a divorce on the ground of physical cruelty, there must be violence that endangers life, limb, or safety, and causes cohabitation to be unsafe. Physical acts like slapping or pinching (without serious injury) are generally deemed too minor to constitute physical cruelty, unless there is a significant pattern of such acts. Contrastingly, a single serious violent act, like shooting a spouse, may be considered physical cruelty for seeking divorce.
Mental cruelty or emotional abuse is NOT a ground for divorce in South Carolina.
Habitual Drunkenness/Drug Use
A divorce on the ground of habitual drunkenness or drug use may be granted when there is a fixed habit of frequently becoming intoxicated. However, a spouse does not need to be drunk (or under the influence of drugs) constantly. Additionally, the habit must be present at the time the action for divorce is filed and the use of alcohol or drugs must contribute to the breakdown of the marriage.
Generally, evidence that a spouse has been arrested for DUIs, has been to rehab, or has been financially irresponsible due to alcohol or drugs can be used to prove that a divorce on the ground of habitual drunkenness or drug use should be granted.
Occasional use of alcohol or drugs will generally not support a divorce on the ground of habitual drunkenness or drug use.
A divorce on the ground of desertion requires proof that (1) the couple has stopped living together for at least a year; (2) the person who left does not intend to resume living together; (3) the other spouse did not consent to the separation; and (4) the person who left did not have a good reason for leaving.
Most South Carolina Family Court lawyers do not pursue divorces on this ground because they can more easily be granted on the ground of one-year separation (described above).