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1976 South Carolina Code of Laws
Unannotated
Updated through the end of the 2002 Session

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Title 20 - Domestic Relations

CHAPTER 3.

DIVORCE

ARTICLE 1.

DIVORCES IN THIS STATE

SECTION 20-3-10. Grounds for divorce.

No divorce from the bonds of matrimony shall be granted except upon one or more of the following grounds, to wit:

(1) Adultery;

(2) Desertion for a period of one year;

(3) Physical cruelty;

(4) Habitual drunkenness; provided, that this ground shall be construed to include habitual drunkenness caused by the use of any narcotic drug; or

(5) 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. A plea of res judicata or of recrimination with respect to any other provision of this section shall not be a bar to either party obtaining a divorce on this ground.

SECTION 20-3-20. Effect of collusion.

If it shall appear to the satisfaction of the court that the parties to any divorce proceeding colluded or that the act complained of was done with the knowledge or assent of the plaintiff for the purpose of obtaining a divorce the court shall not grant such divorce.

SECTION 20-3-30. Residence requirement.

In order to institute an action for divorce from the bonds of matrimony the plaintiff must have resided in this State at least one year prior to the commencement of the action or, if the plaintiff is a nonresident, the defendant must have so resided in this State for this period; provided, that when both parties are residents of the State when the action is commenced, the plaintiff must have resided in this State only three months prior to commencement of the action. The terms 'residents' or 'resided' as used in this section as it applies to a plaintiff or defendant stationed in this State on active duty military service means a continuous presence in this State for the period required regardless of intent to permanently remain in South Carolina.

SECTION 20-3-40. Married person deemed of age.

Any married person shall, for the purpose of maintaining or defending an action for divorce and the settlement of property rights arising thereunder, be deemed of age.

SECTION 20-3-50. Jurisdiction of actions for divorce.

Actions for divorce from the bonds of matrimony shall, except as otherwise provided, be only in the equity jurisdiction of the court of common pleas.

SECTION 20-3-60. Venue.

Actions for divorce from the bonds of matrimony or for separate support and maintenance must be tried in the county (a) in which the defendant resides at the time of the commencement of the action, (b) in which the plaintiff resides if the defendant is a nonresident or after due diligence cannot be found, or (c) in which the parties last resided together as husband and wife unless the plaintiff is a nonresident, in which case it must be brought in the county in which the defendant resides.

SECTION 20-3-70. Service of summons on nonresident.

When the person on whom the service of the summons in an action for divorce from the bonds of matrimony is to be made cannot, after due diligence, be found within the State and that fact appears to the satisfaction of the court, or judge thereof, the clerk of the court of common pleas, the master or the probate judge of the county in which the cause is pending and it in like manner appears that a cause of action exists against the defendant in respect to whom the service is to be made, such court, judge, clerk, master or judge of probate may grant an order that the service be made by the publication of the summons in the manner and with the effect provided in Sections 15-9-710 to 15-9-740. In lieu of publication of summons as provided in Sections 15-9-710 to 15-9-740 the plaintiff may cause such process to be served personally upon any nonresident and the service so made shall be sufficient.

SECTION 20-3-80. Required delays before reference and final decree; exceptions.

No reference shall be had before two months after the filing of the complaint in the office of the Clerk of Court, nor shall a final decree be granted before three months after such filing.

Provided, however, that when the plaintiff seeks a divorce on the grounds of desertion or separation for one year, the hearing may be held and the decree issued after the responsive pleadings have been filed or after the respondent has been adjudged to be in default whichever occurs sooner.

SECTION 20-3-90. Attempt at reconciliation.

In all cases referred to a master or special referee, such master or special referee shall, except in default cases, summon the party or parties within the jurisdiction of the court before him and shall in all cases make an earnest effort to bring about a reconciliation between the parties if they appear before him. No judgment of divorce shall be granted in such case unless the master or special referee to whom such cause may have been referred shall certify in his report or, if the cause has not been referred, unless the trial judge shall state in the decree that he has attempted to reconcile the parties to such action and that such efforts were unavailing.

SECTION 20-3-100. Attempt at reconciliation when one party is in armed forces overseas.

When either of the parties is a member of the armed forces and is serving without the continental limits of the United States, an affidavit by such party, taken before any officer of the armed forces authorized to administer an oath, to the effect that, so far as he is concerned, a reconciliation is impossible shall be accepted by the court in lieu of the certification that an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the parties has been made.

SECTION 20-3-110. Injunctions incident to divorce suits.

The court, pending the termination of the action or by final order, may restrain or enjoin either party to the cause from in any manner interposing any restraint upon the personal liberty of, or from harming, interfering with or molesting, the other party to the cause during the pendency of the suit or after final judgment. It may also, during the pendency of such action, restrain or enjoin any other person who is made a party to the action from doing or threatening to do any act calculated to prevent or interfere with a reconciliation of the husband and wife or other amicable adjustment of the action.

SECTION 20-3-120. Alimony and suit money.

In every divorce action from the bonds of matrimony either party may in his or her complaint or answer or by petition pray for the allowance to him or her of alimony and suit money and for the allowance of such alimony and suit money pendente lite. If such claim shall appear well-founded the court shall allow a reasonable sum therefor.

SECTION 20-3-125. Petition to enforce award of attorney fee.

Any attorney whose client has been awarded an attorney fee by the family court may petition the family court for the circuit in which the order was filed to enforce the payment of such fee.

SECTION 20-3-130. Award of alimony and other allowances.

(A) In proceedings for divorce from the bonds of matrimony, and in actions for separate maintenance and support, the court may grant alimony or separate maintenance and support in such amounts and for such term as the court considers appropriate as from the circumstances of the parties and the nature of case may be just, pendente lite, and permanently. No alimony may be awarded a spouse who commits adultery before the earliest of these two events: (1) the formal signing of a written property or marital settlement agreement or (2) entry of a permanent order of separate maintenance and support or of a permanent order approving a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties.

(B) Alimony and separate maintenance and support awards may be granted pendente lite and permanently in such amounts and for periods of time subject to conditions as the court considers just including, but not limited to:

(1) Periodic alimony to be paid but terminating on the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse or upon the death of either spouse (except as secured in subsection (D)) and terminable and modifiable based upon changed circumstances occurring in the future. The purpose of this form of support may include, but is not limited to, circumstances where the court finds it appropriate to order the payment of alimony on an ongoing basis where it is desirable to make a current determination and requirement for the ongoing support of a spouse to be reviewed and revised as circumstances may dictate in the future.

(2) Lump-sum alimony in a finite total sum to be paid in one installment, or periodically over a period of time, terminating only upon the death of the supported spouse, but not terminable or modifiable based upon remarriage or changed circumstances in the future. The purpose of this form of support may include, but not be limited to, circumstances where the court finds alimony appropriate but determines that such an award be of a finite and nonmodifiable nature.

(3) Rehabilitative alimony in a finite sum to be paid in one installment or periodically, terminable upon the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse, the death of either spouse (except as secured in subsection (D)) or the occurrence of a specific event to occur in the future, or modifiable based upon unforeseen events frustrating the good faith efforts of the supported spouse to become self-supporting or the ability of the supporting spouse to pay the rehabilitative alimony. The purpose of this form of support may include, but is not limited to, circumstances where the court finds it appropriate to provide for the rehabilitation of the supported spouse, but to provide modifiable ending dates coinciding with events considered appropriate by the court such as the completion of job training or education and the like, and to require rehabilitative efforts by the supported spouse.

(4) Reimbursement alimony to be paid in a finite sum, to be paid in one installment or periodically, terminable on the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse, or upon the death of either spouse (except as secured in subsection (D)) but not terminable or modifiable based upon changed circumstances in the future. The purpose of this form of support may include, but is not limited to, circumstances where the court finds it necessary and desirable to reimburse the supported spouse from the future earnings of the payor spouse based upon circumstances or events that occurred during the marriage.

(5) Separate maintenance and support to be paid periodically, but terminating upon the continued cohabitation of the supported spouse, upon the divorce of the parties, or upon the death of either spouse (except as secured in subsection (D)) and terminable and modifiable based upon changed circumstances in the future. The purpose of this form of support may include, but is not limited to, circumstances where a divorce is not sought, but it is necessary to provide for support of the supported spouse by way of separate maintenance and support when the parties are living separate and apart.

(6) Such other form of spousal support, under terms and conditions as the court may consider just, as appropriate under the circumstances without limitation to grant more than one form of support.

For purposes of this subsection and unless otherwise agreed to in writing by the parties, "continued cohabitation" means the supported spouse resides with another person in a romantic relationship for a period of ninety or more consecutive days. The court may determine that a continued cohabitation exists if there is evidence that the supported spouse resides with another person in a romantic relationship for periods of less than ninety days and the two periodically separate in order to circumvent the ninety-day requirement.

(C) In making an award of alimony or separate maintenance and support, the court must consider and give weight in such proportion as it finds appropriate to all of the following factors:

(1) the duration of the marriage together with the ages of the parties at the time of the marriage and at the time of the divorce or separate maintenance action between the parties;

(2) the physical and emotional condition of each spouse;

(3) the educational background of each spouse, together with need of each spouse for additional training or education in order to achieve that spouse's income potential;

(4) the employment history and earning potential of each spouse;

(5) the standard of living established during the marriage;

(6) the current and reasonably anticipated earnings of both spouses;

(7) the current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of both spouses;

(8) the marital and nonmarital properties of the parties, including those apportioned to him or her in the divorce or separate maintenance action;

(9) custody of the children, particularly where conditions or circumstances render it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home, or where the employment must be of a limited nature;

(10) marital misconduct or fault of either or both parties, whether or not used as a basis for a divorce or separate maintenance decree if the misconduct affects or has affected the economic circumstances of the parties, or contributed to the breakup of the marriage, except that no evidence of personal conduct which may otherwise be relevant and material for the purpose of this subsection may be considered with regard to this subsection if the conduct took place subsequent to the happening of the earliest of (a) the formal signing of a written property or marital settlement agreement or (b) entry of a permanent order of separate maintenance and support or of a permanent order approving a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties;

(11) the tax consequences to each party as a result of the particular form of support awarded;

(12) the existence and extent of any support obligation from a prior marriage or for any other reason of either party; and

(13) such other factors the court considers relevant.

(D) In making an award of alimony or separate maintenance and support, the court may make provision for security for the payment of the support including, but not limited to, requiring the posting of money, property, and bonds and may require a spouse, with due consideration of the cost of premiums, insurance plans carried by the parties during marriage, insurability of the payor spouse, the probable economic condition of the supported spouse upon the death of the payor spouse, and any other factors the court may deem relevant, to carry and maintain life insurance so as to assure support of a spouse beyond the death of the payor spouse.

(E) In making an award of alimony or separate maintenance and support, the court may order the direct payment to the supported spouse, or may require that the payments be made through the Family Court and allocate responsibility for the service fee in connection with the award. The court may require the payment of debts, obligations, and other matters on behalf of the supported spouse.

(F) The court may elect and determine the intended tax effect of the alimony and separate maintenance and support as provided by the Internal Revenue Code and any corresponding state tax provisions. The Family Court may allocate the right to claim dependency exemptions pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code and under corresponding state tax provisions and to require the execution and delivery of all necessary documents and tax filings in connection with the exemption.

(G) The Family Court may review and approve all agreements which bear on the issue of alimony or separate maintenance and support, whether brought before the court in actions for divorce from the bonds of matrimony, separate maintenance and support actions, or in actions to approve agreement where the parties are living separate and apart. The failure to seek a divorce, separate maintenance, or a legal separation does not deprive the court of its authority and jurisdiction to approve and enforce the agreements. The parties may agree in writing if properly approved by the court to make the payment of alimony as set forth in items (1) through (6) of subsection (B) nonmodifiable and not subject to subsequent modification by the court.

(H) The court, from time to time after considering the financial resources and marital fault of both parties, may order one party to pay a reasonable amount to the other for attorney fees, expert fees, investigation fees, costs, and suit money incurred in maintaining an action for divorce from the bonds of matrimony, as well as in actions for separate maintenance and support, including sums for services rendered and costs incurred before the commencement of the proceeding and after entry of judgment, pendente lite and permanently.

SECTION 20-3-140. Allowance of alimony and suit money in suits for separate support and maintenance and similar actions.

In all actions for separate support and maintenance, legal separation, or other marital litigation between the parties, allowances of alimony and suit money and allowances of alimony and suit money pendente lite shall be made according to the principles controlling such allowance and actions for divorce a vinculo matrimonii.

SECTION 20-3-145. Attorney fee to constitute lien; payment to estate.

In any divorce action any attorney fee awarded by the court shall constitute a lien on any property owned by the person ordered to pay the attorney fee and such attorney fee shall be paid to the estate of the person entitled to receive it under the order if such person dies during the pendency of the divorce action.

SECTION 20-3-150. Segregation of allowance between spouse and children; effect of remarriage of spouse.

If the court awards the custody of the children to the spouse receiving alimony the court, by its decree, unless good cause to the contrary be shown, shall allocate any award for permanent alimony and support between the supported spouse and the children and upon the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse the amount fixed in the decree for his or her support shall cease, and no further alimony payments may be required from the supporting spouse.

For purposes of this subsection and unless otherwise agreed to in writing by the parties, "continued cohabitation" means the supported spouse resides with another person in a romantic relationship for a period of ninety or more consecutive days. The court may determine that a continued cohabitation exists if there is evidence that the supported spouse resides with another person in a romantic relationship for periods of less than ninety days and the two periodically separate in order to circumvent the ninety-day requirement.

SECTION 20-3-160. Care, custody and maintenance of children.

In any action for divorce from the bonds of matrimony the court may at any stage of the cause, or from time to time after final judgment, make such orders touching the care, custody and maintenance of the children of the marriage and what, if any, security shall be given for the same as from the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case and the best spiritual as well as other interests of the children may be fit, equitable and just.

SECTION 20-3-170. Modification, confirmation or termination of alimony.

Whenever any husband or wife, pursuant to a judgment of divorce from the bonds of matrimony, has been required to make his or her spouse any periodic payments of alimony and the circumstances of the parties or the financial ability of the spouse making the periodic payments shall have changed since the rendition of such judgment, either party may apply to the court which rendered the judgment for an order and judgment decreasing or increasing the amount of such alimony payments or terminating such payments and the court, after giving both parties an opportunity to be heard and to introduce evidence relevant to the issue, shall make such order and judgment as justice and equity shall require, with due regard to the changed circumstances and the financial ability of the supporting spouse, decreasing or increasing or confirming the amount of alimony provided for in such original judgment or terminating such payments. Thereafter the supporting spouse shall pay and be liable to pay the amount of alimony payments directed in such order and judgment and no other or further amount and such original judgment, for the purpose of all actions or proceedings of every nature and wherever instituted, whether within or without this State, shall be deemed to be and shall be modified accordingly, subject in every case to a further proceeding or proceedings under the provisions of this section in relation to such modified judgment.

SECTION 20-3-180. Change of name after divorce or separation.

The court, upon the granting of final judgment of divorce or an order of separate maintenance, may allow a party to resume a former surname or the surname of a former spouse.

SECTION 20-3-190. Divorced wife shall be barred of dower.

On the granting of any final decree of divorce, the wife shall thereafter be barred of dower in lands formerly owned, then owned, or thereafter acquired by her former husband.

SECTION 20-3-200. Divorce shall not render children illegitimate.

No judgment of divorce from the bonds of matrimony shall render illegitimate the children begotten of the marriage.

SECTION 20-3-210. Unlawful advertising for purpose of procuring divorce.

It shall be unlawful for any person to print, publish, distribute or circulate or cause to be printed, published, distributed or circulated any card, handbill, advertisement, printed paper, book, newspaper or notice of any kind offering or otherwise to advertise to procure, attempt to procure or aid in procuring any divorce either in this State or elsewhere. But this section shall not apply to the printing or publishing of any notice or advertisement required or authorized by the laws of this State.

SECTION 20-3-220. Unlawful advertising for purpose of procuring divorce; penalty.

Any person violating any of the provisions of Section 20-3-210 shall, upon conviction, be punished for each offense by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars and not more than one thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not less than one month or more than one year, or both such fine and such imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.

SECTION 20-3-230. Clerks of court shall file reports of divorces and annulments with Division of Vital Statistics.

Whenever a divorce or annulment is decreed by a court having jurisdiction, the clerk of court shall, no later than thirty days following the filing of the final decree, send a report to the Registrar of the Division of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health and Environmental Control showing such information as may be required on a certificate to be furnished by the Division of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

SECTION 20-3-235. Decree to set forth social security numbers or alien identification numbers of parties in divorce.

A decree of divorce shall set forth the social security numbers, or the alien identification numbers assigned to resident aliens who do not have social security numbers, of the parties in the divorce. Filing the required form with the Department of Health and Environmental Control complies with the requirements of this section.

ARTICLE 3.

UNIFORM DIVORCE RECOGNITION ACT

SECTION 20-3-410. Short title.

This article may be cited as the "Uniform Divorce Recognition Act."

SECTION 20-3-420. Nonresident divorce shall be void if parties were domiciled here.

A divorce from the bonds of matrimony obtained in another jurisdiction shall be of no force or effect in this State if both parties to the marriage were domiciled in this State at the time the proceeding for the divorce was commenced.

SECTION 20-3-430. Prima facie evidence of domicile.

Proof that a person obtaining a divorce from the bonds of matrimony in another jurisdiction was (a) domiciled in this State within twelve months prior to the commencement of the proceeding therefor and resumed residence in this State within eighteen months after the date of his departure therefrom or (b) at all times after his departure from this State and until his return maintained a place of residence within this State shall be prima facie evidence that the person was domiciled in this State when the divorce proceeding was commenced. But the provisions of this section shall not apply in cases of divorce when the decree of divorce was issued prior to June 3, 1950.

SECTION 20-3-440. Construction.

This article shall be so interpreted and construed as to effectuate its general purpose to make uniform the law of those states which enact substantially identical legislation.





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