What are the Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina? A brief examination of S.C. Code Ann. Section 20-3-10.

Family law has traditionally been governed almost entirely by individual state law (as opposed to federal law).  For purposes of this entry, this means that one state may “allow” a certain ground for divorce, but another, such as South Carolina, may not allow one to file for divorce utilizing that ground, and vice a versa.

South Carolina law sets forth via statute (a law that the South Carolina legislature has created that can actually be found “on the books”) that there are five (5) distinct grounds for seeking divorce in South Carolina.

South Carolina Code Ann. Section 20-3-10 is entitled “Grounds for Divorce” and is written as follows (as of January 7, 2012):

“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 provision of this section shall not be a bar to either party obtaining a divorce on this ground.”

Numbers one (1) through four (4), respectively, are generally considered fault-based grounds for divorce in South Carolina, while number five (5) is generally considered a no-fault ground for divorce in South Carolina.  While the statute setting forth grounds for divorce may seems simple enough upon first glance, there is a plethora (quite a bit) of “Judge made” case-law discussing what each ground means and what is needed to actually prove each and every one of these grounds, including the burden of proof the person alleging the ground has to overcome.  Speaking with a licensed South Carolina lawyer who practices in family law and divorce is often the best way to match specific facts of a situation with possible grounds for divorce.

If you would like to speak with an attorney from our firm concerning your divorce matter or other family law matter, please call us at (843) 474-0614 or toll free at (800) 996-0683. We would be honored to speak with you.

Lee Law Firm, LLC is a South Carolina based law firm that advocates for and counsels clients throughout South Carolina and its Low Country, primarily in Beaufort and Jasper counties (including Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Daufuskie Island, Ridgeland, Callawassie Island, Okatie, Hardeeville, and Beaufort).