How Fast Can You Get a Divorce?

We have all heard horror stories about nasty divorce cases that take years to settle in the courts. But what about cases where the spouses agree to separate amicably and go their separate ways? Just how fast can a couple obtain a divorce from the courts?

Uncontested & No-Fault Divorces

Under South Carolina law, if nobody is legally at fault for the breakdown of the marriage—that is, neither spouse is guilty of adultery, physical abuse, habitual drunkenness or desertion—then either spouse may seek a no-fault divorce provided the parties have lived separately and apart for at least one year. After this separation period, one spouse must then file a formal complaint for divorce against the other spouse. The defendant spouse must then answer the complaint within 30 days.

If the defendant spouse answers the complaint within the 30 days and agrees to whatever relief the plaintiff spouse seeks, the court may immediately schedule a hearing and grant a divorce. If the defendant spouse fails to file an answer within the 30 days, he or she is in default and the court may enter an uncontested judgment for the plaintiff spouse. In either case, it is possible to obtain a divorce within a month under these circumstances.

Contested & Fault Divorces

Unfortunately, the courts must move much slower if the defendant spouse contests the proceedings. This is not uncommon in fault divorces, where the plaintiff spouse alleges some sort of misconduct that caused the marriage to fall apart. Like no-fault divorces, a fault divorce requires one spouse to file a complaint, while the other has 30 days to file an answer. Unlike the no-fault scenario, the parties must wait at least two months after the complaint is filed before a Family Court judge may hold a hearing. In such cases, South Carolina law also requires the parties at least three months before the court may grant a divorce.

fast-divorceHow Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce?

Regardless of the type of proceeding, no divorce may be finalized until a Family Court judge holds a hearing, resolves any outstanding issues between the parties, and issues a formal divorce decree. How long does it take a judge to hold such a hearing? That depends on where you live. Each Family Court in South Carolina has its own judges and calendar, and in smaller counties with only one or two active judges, it may take a few months, even in a simple uncontested divorce, to get a hearing date.

Regardless of whether your divorce will be contested or not, the fastest way to get a divorce is to contact an attorney to help with the process. There are numerous papers that need to be filed, court dates to be set, and possibly property to be divided. Hiring an attorney is the easiest way to expedite the divorce process.


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