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What does legal separation in South Carolina involve?

Divorce isn't always an option for those whose religion opposes divorce or for those who don't want to turn their back entirely on a spouse struggling with issues like compulsive gambling, alcoholism or drug addiction. If you still feel that there is hope that you and your spouse could eventually reconcile and save your marriage, you may not want to file for divorce yet.

It is common for people to want to give their partner the benefit of the doubt and try to make things work. However, if your spouse has moved out of the marital home or has otherwise started to engage in behaviors that could cause legal or financial liability, you may still want to take action even if you don't want to divorce.

Legal separation is not necessarily an alternative to divorce, but it is an option for those who worry about the legal consequences of their spouse's behavior or who need state assistance because their spouse won't support the family.

What is the process for legal separation in South Carolina?

In some states, securing a legal separation only requires evidence that you and your spouse live separately and handle your finances on your own. However, South Carolina doesn't have such a broad view of legal separation. Legal separation can only be an option if you go through the courts and secure an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support.

For the courts to issue that order, they must review many of the same considerations that the courts explore during a divorce. You will also need to be living separately or at least have fault-based grounds to request the separation. The courts will then consider issues such as child custody, parenting time, visitation, child support, spousal support or maintenance, the marital homestead, joint bank accounts, and other personal property or debt.

The courts will assist one spouse in removing the other from joint accounts when they issue the Order of Separate Maintenance and Support. For some spouses, that alone is the reason they seek a legal separation. They may not intend to divorce or leave their spouse, but they don't want to worry about losing the shared assets that the family depends on due to someone's substance abuse problems or addiction to gambling.

Legal separation is completely separate from a divorce

If you choose to legally separate and the courts approve an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support, you will have fewer legal ties to your spouse, although you will remain married.

In the event that you want to divorce, you will need to refile and follow all the necessary procedures involved in a divorce. The only exceptions may be that the legal separation could result in a waiver of waiting periods and that the order issued in the separation can provide grounds for a faster, uncontested divorce when you file.

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