In South Carolina, the grounds for divorce are as follows:

  1. One year’s continuous separation, meaning living one year separate and apart without cohabiting for a period of one year
  2. Adultery
  3. Abandonment, which is desertion for a period of one year
  4. Physical cruelty
  5. Habitual drunkenness, which includes narcotics

The first ground, one year’s continuous separation without cohabitation, is what the Court refers to as a no-fault divorce. This is likely the most common ground used to obtain a divorce. While all divorces require corroboration or independent proof, this ground is generally uncontested, and the evidence to support the one year’s continuous separation is easier to demonstrate.

The other four divorces are considered fault ground divorces. They also require corroboration or independent proof but generally are more difficult to establish than the no-fault divorce.

Adultery In South Carolina Divorce Law

As for adultery, it is defined as the act of having sexual intercourse with someone other than one’s spouse. This includes proof of sexual intimacy. The burden of proof is a clear preponderance of the evidence, or clearly more likely than not, that adultery has actually occurred. One must show proof of opportunity and inclination. The opportunity is as it sounds, an opportunity for the offending spouse to commit adultery, whereas inclination, is proof that the spouse is inclined to commit adultery. Adultery, unlike the other fault ground divorces, is an absolute bar to alimony in most cases.

Abandonment Defined By Law

As to abandonment, one must show that they have been deserted for a period of time of one year. This is rarely, if ever, used in light of the easier to prove no-fault divorce, continuous separation without the benefit of cohabitation for a period of a year. There was a time when there was no such thing as a no-fault divorce in South Carolina, and abandonment was frequently used to obtain a divorce.

Physical Cruelty

As for physical cruelty, the spouse seeking the divorce must show proof of some sort of physical violence. Generally speaking, one will need to show continued acts of personal violence which cause injury or pain and fear of future harm. Generally, one act, unless egregious, in and of itself, will not entitle one to a divorce. Likewise, “slight violence” will not entitle one to a divorce.

Habitual Drunkenness As Grounds For Divorce

As to habitual drunkenness, one must show that the abuse of alcohol caused the breakdown of the marriage. Generally, you must show that there is a fixed habit of frequently getting drunk. You do not have to show that the offending spouse is an alcoholic, but rather that it is habitual and it causes the breakdown of marital relations. As mentioned previously, it includes narcotic drugs.

We Can Help You Find the Option That Best Fits Your Needs

The advantage to a fault ground divorce is the ability to file the action while residing together, and the ability to obtain the divorce 90 days after the filing of the action, although in practice, the Court system generally takes more time to get through than 90 days.

If you are facing a potential divorce or other family law matter and would like to meet with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your options, please contact me at 888-230-1841 to set up a consultation.


John Holland
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John Holland is a Spartanburg Family law attorney, practicing since 2012.