FAMILY LAW MADE SIMPLE
Leigh Davis Fickling, J.D., M.Ed., M.S.
Trident Technical College
A “small” disclaimer……
The presenter has obtained information from sources believed to be reliable. However, because of human or mechanical error, the presenter cannot guarantee the accuracy, adequacy or
completeness of any information presented during today’s session. Additionally, the presenter is not responsible for errors or omissions or for the results obtained from use of such information
discussed during today’s program.
Divorce Law in South Carolina
In South Carolina, a divorce may be granted on one of
the following five grounds:
Desertion for a period of one year
Habitual drunkenness (includes the use of narcotic drugs)
On the application of either party if and when the husband
and wife have lived separate and apart without
cohabitation for a period of one year.
SC Code Ann. § 20-3-10
Grounds for Divorce—Adultery
The definition of adultery for the purpose of granting a
divorce or barring alimony is illicit intercourse between two
persons, at least one of whom is married to someone other
than the sexual partner.
Explicit extra-marital sexual activity constitutes adultery
regardless of whether it is of a homosexual or heterosexual
May be proven by circumstantial evidence showing
inclination and opportunity to commit adultery
Must be sufficiently definite to identify the time and place
of the offense
Persons who commit adultery are banned from receiving
Grounds for Divorce—Physical Cruelty
Physical cruelty, as used in divorce law, has been defined as actual
personal violence, or such a course of physical treatment that
endangers life, limb or health and renders cohabitation unsafe.
A single assault by one spouse upon the other spouse can constitute
Must be life threatening or must be either indicative of an intent to do
serious bodily harm, or of such a degree as to raise a reasonable
apprehension of great bodily harm in the future.
Bodily injury is not required in order to find physical cruelty if the
wrongful act involves actual violence directed by one spouse at the
A divorce on the ground of physical cruelty will not be granted when
the physical cruelty is provoked by the complaining spouse and the
physical cruelty is not out of proportion to the provocation.
Grounds for Divorce—Habitual
Drunkenness (and Drug Abuse)
Habitual drunkenness is the fixed habit of frequently
getting drunk, but it does not necessarily imply
One need not be an alcoholic to be guilty of habitual
drunkenness. It is sufficient if the use or abuse of
alcohol causes the breakdown of normal marital
To prove habitual drunkenness, there must be a showing
that abuse of alcohol caused breakdown of marriage
and such abuse existed at or near the time of filing for
Grounds for Divorce—Separation for
more than one year
The “living separate and apart” language requires
that parties live in separate domiciles for a period
of one year (usually living in separate rooms in the
marital home does not constitute living separate
Actions for Divorce—Venue
In actions for divorce or separate support and
maintenance, venue is proper in the county:
In which the parties last resided together as husband
and wife (unless the Plaintiff is a nonresident—then can
file in the county in which the Defendant resides);
In which the defendant resides at the time of the
commencement of the action; or
In which the plaintiff resides if the defendant is a
nonresident or after due diligence cannot be found.
SC Code Ann. § 20-3-60
South Carolina Bar Self-Represented
Provides instructions and sample forms for Plaintiff and
Persons filing for divorce must have lived in South Carolina
for one year
If you don’t live in SC, your spouse must have lived there for
If both parties live in SC for three months, you can file a
Steps for Self-Represented Litigants
1. Only use the SC Bar packet if:
You are filing for divorce on the ground of One (1) Year Continuous
Have no marital property or have reached an agreement about how to divide
Have no marital debt or have reached an agreement about how to divide
Have no children and none are expected or
Have children and have reached an agreement as to custody, visitation and
child support that meets the minimum requirements set forth in the SC Child
2. Complete the paperwork in the packet (make sure you keep two copies of the
paperwork for yourself)
3. File paperwork with the Clerk of Court’s office (Pay $150) (this officially begins
the divorce process)
Only bring cash, a cashier’s check or money order for the filing fee (no
Steps for Self-Represented Litigants
4. Serve the papers on your spouse or spouse’s attorney.
5. Wait for an “Answer” from your spouse. If he/she
contests the divorce in any manner—hire an attorney!!!
6. If your spouse agrees to every paragraph in your
complaint, file a request for hearing with the Clerk’s Office.
7. The Clerk’s Office will inform you of your hearing date.
Serve this information on your spouse (or his/her attorney).
8. Proceed forward with the Divorce hearing.
9. Make sure that you bring two* witnesses with you to the
hearing that can testify to the fact that you and your spouse
have been living separate and apart for one year.
Additional notes about divorce in South
You are not divorced until the Final Order for
Divorce has been signed by the judge and filed
with the Clerk of Court. You are divorced when you
receive a “clocked copy” of the Final Order.
Fault based divorces can be granted after 90 days;
“Living Separate and Apart” divorces can be
granted after 30 days.
A Court will award custody to the most fit parent.
The Court will consider:
Who has shown the most responsibility for the child?
Who has taken responsibility for making decisions for
Who is best able to take care of the child?
Age of the parties/health/income/education/parenting
Report and Investigation of the Guardian Ad Litem
At times, the child’s preference
Grandparents or third parties do not have superior
rights to custody over those of a biological parent.
The Court presumes that it is in the best interest of
the child to be in the custody of a biological parent
unless proven otherwise.
What is it?
Money paid by one parent to another for the needs of the child
Needs can include day care, school expenses, medical bills, food,
How long is a parent required to pay child support?
Until the child becomes 18 years old
Note: the court can extend payments past the age of 18 if the
child has special needs or if the child needs to finish his/her
How does the Court calculate child support?
Determined by the South Carolina Child Support Guidelines
Considers the income of both parents and the number of children
Daycare and healthcare costs are also factored into the guidelines
Change of circumstances
Either parent can ask the Court to review child
support payments every three years to determine
whether there should be an increase or reduction in
What can be done if the non-custodial
parent refuses to pay support?
“Bad Dad Day”
Collection may be accomplished by:
Filing Contempt of Court proceedings (jail time, fines, or
Withholding the child support payment from the non-
custodial parent’s wages or unemployment benefits
Deducting past due payments from tax returns
Garnishing workers compensation benefits
What if the non-custodial parent is in
Generally, past-due support will accumulate while a
parent is in jail.
If the parent is working in a work release program
then wages may be garnished.
Can I Withhold Visitation if the Other
Parent is Behind on Support Payments?
NO!!!! You may be held in Contempt of Court for
failing to honor the non-custodial parent’s visitation
Orders of Protection
Order an abuser not to abuse a victim or threaten
to abuse a victim
Order the abuser not to communicate with the victim
or to try to communicate with the victim
Order the abuser to stay away from any place that
the victim requests (school, home, daycare, etc)
Awards temporary custody and visitation rights
Grants temporary possession of a shared residence
Restraining Orders Against Stalking or
You do not need to have a specific relationship with the
person harassing or stalking you, but you must convince
a magistrate that the defendant engaged in stalking or
harassment (as defined by the law)
Harassment = a pattern of intentional, substantial, and
unreasonable intrusion into your private life that causes
you to suffer mental distress
May include: following you; visual, physical, verbal or
written contact that is initiated, maintained or repeated
after you have told the person not to contact you; vandalism
or property damage; surveillance of your home or
A pattern of words or conduct that is intended to
cause and does cause you and would cause a
reasonable person in your position to fear:
Death to you or a family member
Assault upon you or a family member
Bodily injury to you or a family member
Criminal sexual conduct to you or a family member
Kidnapping of you or a family member
Who can get an order of protection?
You are eligible to file for an order of protection if
you or your children have been the victim of acts of
Your former spouse
Someone with whom you have had a child in common,
Your live-in partner (or former live-in partner) if one of
you is male and the other is female
South Carolina Bar Association webpage
Call 2-1-1 (Trident United Way Hotline)
Questions? Concerns? Comments?
Leigh Davis Fickling, Esquire
Dean of Student Development
Trident Technical College