What are the grounds for divorce in South Carolina?

Since the 1970s, more and more states in the union have moved towards no-fault divorce. 17 states are “pure no-fault” states, where the only option is a no-fault divorce. The remaining states, including South Carolina, have no-fault and fault-based options for couples seeking permanent dissolution of marriage. Knowing the difference between these two options and their potential impact on your life after a divorce is important. 

No-fault divorce 

Every state offers no-fault divorce, which is routinely granted based on “irreconcilable differences.” However, this was not always the case. Years ago, the spouse requesting dissolution had to allege that the other spouse did something “wrong” that essentially ended the marriage. However, to make divorce more accessible, all states have since adopted no-fault divorce options. 

What makes no-fault an attractive option is the lack of having to prove that your spouse did something wrong, or lay blame in anyone’s lap. However, some states require spouses alleging a no-fault divorce to wait a certain period of time before filing. South Carolina is one such state. To seek a no-fault divorce here, the spouses must live separately for one year before filing for the dissolution of marriage. 

Grounds for fault-based divorce 

South Carolina also allows fault-based divorces. So, if a couple does not want to wait through the year of separation necessary for a no-fault divorce, one spouse can allege a fault-based reason such as: 

  • Adultery 
  • Habitual drunkenness or narcotics use 
  • Physical cruelty 
  • Abandonment 

Each of these grounds has its own specific set of rules and definitions that you should become familiar with if you wish to initiate a fault-based divorce in South Carolina. If one spouse successfully proves fault, this finding can affect the allocation of marital property and alimony. Depending on the judge and the facts of each case, the at-fault spouse could receive less marital property. The court could also order the at-fault party to pay attorney’s fees for the other spouse, as well as alimony.