Divorce is rarely easy, even when the relationship between the parties is amicable. This is primarily because terminating a marriage requires couples to grapple with a number of complicated issues, including property division, spousal maintenance, and shared parenting time, all of which can take an enormous emotional and monetary toll on the parties involved.
From spouses trying to hide assets to ‘taking the money and running,’ money and property put further strain on an already stressful dissolution process.
Property Division in South Carolina
South Carolina is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing marital possessions upon divorce, which means that all of a couple’s assets must be allocated equitably. This does not always mean that a couple’s property will be allocated equally, but only that it will be distributed fairly.
Furthermore, this rule does not apply to all of a couple’s assets, but only to the assets that are deemed to be “marital” in nature or that were acquired during the course of the marriage. This is true irrespective of whether the names of only one or both parties are on the bank account, title, deed, or credit card in question.
Non-marital property, on the other hand, is made up of resources that were acquired by either spouse before they were actually married. These assets, unlike marital property, will remain solely with the original owner after divorce. However, if those assets were later commingled with marital property to such a degree that it is impossible to distinguish between the two, then even non-marital assets will qualify as marital and will need to be allocated equitably.
It is also important to note that certain types of property, including inheritances, gifts, and personal injury awards, will remain in the hands of the original owner, regardless of when they were acquired.
Spousal Maintenance in South Carolina
Although reform groups want changes to alimony laws in South Carolina, as of now, they are alive and well.
Once the parties to a separation – or the court, if the parties are unable to come to an agreement – have determined how marital assets will be allocated, a judge may be tasked with deciding whether to award alimony to one of the parties. This determination requires the analysis of a variety of factors, including:
● Each spouse’s income, non-marital assets, and liabilities;
● The physical and mental health of both parties;
● The length of the marriage;
● The couple’s standard of living during the marriage; and
● Whether the couple has any minor children.
Once these factors have been evaluated, the court will determine whether ordering spousal maintenance is appropriate, and if so, in what amount and for what duration. The award could take the form of a single lump sum payment or a series of regular payments.
In the event that a couple has children, they will also need to come up with a parenting plan that establishes a time-sharing schedule, as well as how parental responsibilities will be allocated. When two spouses are unable to come to an agreement on these issues, a court will step in and create a plan that is in the children’s best interests.
Divorce Law Changes Often
The only constant about South Carolina’s family law world is that it is ever-evolving. What may apply to alimony and asset division today probably will not tomorrow.
If you want to learn more about South Carolina’s legal requirements for obtaining a divorce, you should consider consulting with an experienced family law attorney who can help ensure that your rights and interests are protected.
Zach Ellis, a family and criminal law attorney, can be reached at 864-991-8738.