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Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce in Fort Mill

Answers from Fort Mill, Indian Land, Rock Hill, York County & Lancaster County Divorce Attorneys

Are you preparing to file for divorce? You might be feeling overwhelmed and you probably have a lot of questions about the process. The Fort Mill divorce attorneys at Holland Law LLC are prepared to guide you through your divorce proceedings. For your convenience, we have compiled answers to some of our most commonly asked questions about divorce.

If you still have questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at (803) 500-4140. We have convenient offices in Fort Mill and Rock Hill to better serve your needs.

  • Do you charge a consultation fee and if so how much is it?

    Yes, we do charge a consultation fee of $300. Each initial consultation is scheduled for one hour. We will take the time to answer all of your questions so you will have a complete understanding of the family court process and how we can assist you in reaching your goals. If it is determined during the initial consultation that additional time will be needed, we will extend the consultation if possible or reschedule for a follow-up meeting.

    If you decide to hire us as your attorney, the $300 consultation fee will be applied to your account. In order to exercise efficiency, we will send you intake paperwork and a link for payment of the consultation fee prior to your appointment. Payment is required prior to the date of your consultation. We accept cash, check, debit card, and credit cards.

  • How much do you charge and what are the payment options?

    For most family law matters, we bill on an hourly basis. Our Attorney rates are between $200 to $300 per hour depending on the experience level of the attorney working on your case. We charge between $75 and $125 for administrative and paralegal work.

    We require an initial retainer, a portion of which is non-refundable. The amount of the retainer depends on the complexity of your legal matter and our estimated amount of time your matter will take. The non-refundable portion of your retainer will go into our operating account and the remainder of the retainer will go into a trust account. We will withdraw money as we perform work on your case. We will require your trust account to be replenished as needed.

    We do offer payment plans as an option to pay the retainer. If a client fails to pay as agreed, we will withdraw from your case. Divorces and other family law matters are extremely stressful and burdensome as is and most people do not budget for these mostly unexpected expenses. We recognize that legal matters are expensive, and we will work with you regarding payment to help reduce some of the stress felt by our clients. We will work with clients as long as they work with us and pay as we agree. In the end, this is our livelihood and we expect payment for the services we provide like any other business.

    Prior to the beginning of our representation, the client and our firm will execute a fee agreement that details our respective responsibilities and scope of our representation of the client. We will discuss and explain our fee agreement and payments with you and answer any questions you have. It is a rather detailed fee agreement. However, we have found when both the client and our firm have a complete understanding of each other's expectations and responsibilities misunderstandings and problems seldom arise in the future.

  • Do you offer a flat rate fee?
    Yes, in certain situations we do offer a flat rate fee. Due to the complexity and the number of factors involved in most cases, it is rare to offer a flat rate fee. However, if it is a simple case with a limited number of variables, it is an option that we may offer.
  • What are the grounds for divorce in South Carolina?
    There are five grounds for divorce in South Carolina. Four of the grounds are classified as fault grounds and one is classified as a no-fault ground. The four fault grounds are adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, and desertion. Evidence must be presented to prove any of the fault grounds for divorce. The no-fault ground for divorce is one-year separation. The parties must live separate and apart for one year to have a no-fault ground for divorce.
  • Can my spouse and I use the same attorney in a divorce?
    In South Carolina, an attorney is not permitted to represent both spouses. Each spouse must use independent counsel from each other or one party must continue the case pro se, which means the party does not have an attorney and that party represents himself/herself. It is permitted for one spouse to be represented by an attorney and the other spouse be pro se.
  • Will I need to provide financial information for my divorce?
    Yes, your financial information is relevant and necessary in a divorce or custody action to determine potential alimony, support, and the division of assets and debts. Examples of financial information needed includes all bank accounts, retirement accounts, cars, jewelry, loans, mortgages, and credit cards. Disclosure of each parties' financial situation allows both parties and the Court to determine an equitable solution in dividing the marital assets and/or assigning financial responsibility of debts.
  • Will all my property be divided in a divorce?
    No, non-marital property cannot be divided in a divorce. The issue in a divorce is often what is non-marital (or separate property) and what is marital property. Property that is non-marital can be transmuted into marital property. Marital property includes all property acquired during the marriage, all wages earned during the marriage, and all property purchased with marital funds. Non-marital property includes any property acquired prior to the marriage, property received by inheritance, and gifts made specifically to you and only you. If this property is not commingled with marital property your spouse will not be able to receive any portion of your non-marital property.
  • What is Common Law Marriage?
    Common Law Marriage allows a couple to marry without having a wedding and without signing a marriage license. Most states do not accept common law marriage as a legal marriage, but South Carolina is one of the few states that do. There are three elements to common law marriage. First, the parties must agree to the marriage and have the intent to be married. Next, the parities must hold themselves out to the public as married. Finally, the parties must cohabitate (live together). Once these three factors are proven the parties are considered married in South Carolina and can only be separated by a divorce.
  • Who gets the home in a divorce?

    Determining who will receive the marital home in a divorce depends on the specifics of the case. There is no bright line rule that specifically states which spouse will receive the house. When dividing martial property, such as the marital home, the South Carolina Family Court follows the rules of equitable distribution. In most cases this means the Family Court in its discretion will divide the marital assets 50/50 between the spouses.

    If both spouses want the home, the Family Court looks at many factors to determine who gets the marital home such as the income of each spouse, who has primary custody over minor children and is the divorce being brought on a fault ground. If the parties cannot reach an agreement on the marital home, the Family Court will address the above mentioned factors and any other factors that apply to determine what happens to the home. Depending on the situation, the Family Court could determine it best to sell the home and split the proceeds among the parties.

    If neither spouse wants the marital home, then the house will be sold, and the proceeds split between the parties.

    If one spouse wants the house and the other spouse does not, then the Family Court may allow the one spouse to keep it. In situations like this, the spouse who is not receiving the home will be entitled to additional marital assets or funds, so they receive their equitable portion of the marital estate.

    If one spouse does receive the marital home, the other spouse may need to be taken off the mortgage. This can be completed by the receiving spouse refinancing the mortgage in only his/her name. To refinance a house, one must prove to the lender that he/she has enough monthly funds to afford each payment. If the lender determines the spouse will not be able to afford the monthly payments, the house will need to be sold and the proceeds split between the two spouses.

  • Will I have to pay alimony?

    The general answer is yes if it is a long-term marriage and there is a significant difference in the spouses' incomes. Alimony is used to help both spouses keep the standard of living to which they have become accustomed and to recognize the contribution of each spouse to the marriage. The theory is it would be unfair for a stay at home spouse who took care of the house, the kids and supported the wage-earning spouse in their career to have to live on little to no income after a long-term marriage while the wage earner keeps their full income.

    There is no bright line length of marriage or disparity of income that will trigger alimony. Nor is there any formula that the Judge must follow to determine the amount of alimony.

    The Court must basically take the totality of the circumstances into account when determining if and how much alimony will be paid in a given case. There are many factors the Court considers when determining alimony. Judges must consider the factors listed in South Carolina Code of Laws Unannotated Section 20-3-130 (C) https://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t20c003.php.

    In South Carolina adultery is a complete bar to alimony. In other words, alimony will not be ordered if the lower earning spouse has committed adultery.

  • How do I prove adultery?

    You must prove your spouse has had the opportunity and inclination to have a sexual affair with someone else. An example of opportunity and inclination is when a spouse has a romantic dinner with another person, holding hands looking lovingly in each other's eyes and the spends the night or at least a good amount of time alone with the other person where they could have had sexual relations. In this example, there is no direct evidence of adultery, but the romantic dinner and the parties spending the night together is enough circumstantial evidence to prove opportunity and inclination for adultery. The person alleging adultery must introduce enough evidence to show the time and place of the adultery and any other evidence proving it was committed. What is enough evidence is always a Judgment call. Sometimes the evidence is overwhelming proof. Other times, it is questionable whether you have enough evidence.

    There are many things that can be evidence of adultery. Phone records, debit card or credit card receipts, private investigators, social media posts, emails, other witnesses. I was once able to use medical records that showed that the wife had received tests for sexually transmitted diseases when the parties were living separate and as part of the exam admitted to the doctor that she had a new boyfriend.

    If you suspect your spouse is having an affair, you may want to wait until you have gathered proof of the adultery before confronting them that you know. As soon as they realize you suspect they are having an affair they will mostly start covering their tracks better.

  • Is it better to change my name during or after a divorce?
    In divorces and separate maintenance and support actions, it is common for women to want to resume their maiden (or former married) name. This can be completed two different ways. The first and the easiest way is to have the name change completed with during the divorce or separate maintenance and support action. According to South Carolina Code Section 20-3-180 the Family Court is authorized to allow a party to resume their former name when a final decree is issued by the Court. Once the final divorce decree has been issued, you will need to contact the Social Security Office and complete the steps they require. You will also need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and have your drivers license reflect your changed name.
  • Can I have my name changed outside of divorce?
    It is possible to have your name changed outside of divorce. This process is not as simple as having it changed during the divorce and will require additional steps and time to complete. South Carolina Code Section 15-49-10 explains the name changing process and states all requirements needed to change one's name. To begin the process, one must petition the Family Court, in writing and state the reason for the name change. The party must include in the petition the new name they wish to be known by and any other basic information required by the Court. The Court will also require a criminal background check, statement from the Department of Social Services showing whether you are on the Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect, a statement from the State Law Enforcement Division showing whether you are on the sex offender registry and an affidavit stating whether you ordered to pay child support and/or alimony. Once everything has been submitted to the Family Court, a judge will review the petition and other information and determine if he will grant the name change. In determining whether to grant the name change the judge will verify the name change is not for criminal purposes, and not being used for a fraudulent reason.
  • Do I get the dog?
    South Carolina Family Courts view pets as personal property. For this reason, family pets are divided using equitable distribution like all other personal property. The Family Court will look at factors in determining who will receive the family pet such as work schedules of the parties, who is considered the owner or caregiver of the pet, which party has primary custody of the kids and who is in the best position to provide for the pet. As is the case with the majority of questions in Family Court, there is no black and white answer. The Court will access each case individually to determine what is best for the parties involved. If the dog or other pet has a monetary value, this value will be considered in the division of assets or equitable apportionment.
  • What can be done if my ex-spouse is not following the Court Order?
    It is always best to handle situations such as these outside the Family Court. Addressing the Court order with your Ex-spouse is the easiest and most cost-effective way to resolve any issues regarding the prior Court Order. If speaking with your Ex-spouse is not an option you wish to pursue, it may be best to contact an attorney. The attorney will look over the Order to determine if there is a violation. If there is a violation of the Order the attorney will contact your Ex-spouse regarding the Court Order to correct any misunderstandings pertaining to the Order. If your attorney is not able to resolve the issue with your Ex-spouse and determines your Ex-spouse to be in violation of a Court order, the next step is for your attorney to file a motion for a Rule to Show Cause. The Judge presiding over the motion can issue fines, community service, payment of your attorney fees and/or jail time if he determines the Ex-spouse is in willful violation of the order. To hold a party in contempt for violating an order, the Judge must determine that the failure to comply with the order was willful. This means that the party had the ability to comply with the order but chose not to follow the order.
  • When can I marry after my divorce?
    A common question that comes up during a divorce is, “how long do I have to wait before I can marry again?” Many people assume you must wait a specific amount of time to remarry after you are divorced. This is not the case. You may remarry once you are divorced and the final decree is filed with the clerk of Court. The only reason one must wait to be married is to receive the marriage license. South Carolina Code of Laws Unannotated Section 20-1-220 requires a 24-hour waiting period after you apply for a marriage license to receive the marriage license. When applying for a marriage license, the Probate Court may ask for your full name, place of residence, social security number, and certified true copy of your recent divorce decree. Once you receive the marriage license you can remarry.
  • How long does it take to get divorced?

    The amount of time it takes to get divorced depends on the reason for the divorce.

    If your divorce is based on the no-fault ground of living separate and apart from your spouse for one year and you have indeed lived separate and apart for a year, you are eligible to get a divorce immediately. However, unless the other spouse waives their right to 30 days to answer your complaint and their right to 10 days' notice of the final hearing, you will have to wait at least 40 days. This is assuming that there are no contested issues regarding custody, support, property division, etc.

    It is technically possible to get divorced on day 366 after you separated from your spouse if all statutory notice requirements are waived and you can get your hearing scheduled. Realistically, if it is an uncontested divorce and you have lived separate and apart for the year, it will take approximately 60 days if everything goes well.

    If your divorce is based on a fault ground, it is possible to have a final hearing 60 days after you have filed your complaint for divorce. However, a Judge may not sign a final divorce decree until 90 days after the filing of your complaint for divorce. This has only happened to one of my cases in my career. If all goes well and there are no other contested issues, it would be realistic for a fault-based divorce to take approximately 6 months if all goes well.

    If anything is contested in your divorce, you can expect your divorce to take at least a year or maybe a few months more than year to become final.

    If your divorce is complex, your divorce may take much longer. you do not have to be separated for one year to have your final hearing

    If you and your spouse can agree on terms, your divorce will go significantly faster.

  • How is child support determined?
    Generally, child support is going to be determined using the South Carolina Department of Social Services Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines consider each parent's gross income, number of children, number of children from other relationships being supported in the homes of each parent, health insurance premiums, recurring medical expenses and work-related child care. Courts can deviate from the guidelines but must make specific findings that that the deviation was in the best interest of the children. Judges will often deviate from the child support guidelines if the parents have mutually agreed the amount.
  • What are ways to keep my attorney fees as low as possible?

    In most divorces, attorneys are paid by an hourly rate. Some charge in 1/10 (6 min) increments others use ¼ (15 min) or even ½ (30 min) increments. The longer your attorney works on your case the higher your bill will be. With this logic in mind, you want to make your attorney's job as easy as possible. Most attorneys will charge per email and time the calls you make to them. Limiting the amount of emails or phone calls you send your attorney is an effective way to keep you bill low. Throughout case, you will have to balance the need to keep your attorney informed of necessary information versus contacting you attorney with minor inconveniences that occur when you and your spouse just can't get along.

    Another key area to reduce costs is to provide whatever information is requested by your attorney in a timely and organized manner. For example, you may have a year worth of phone records that show your spouse has been calling and texting their paramour repeatedly at all hours of the day and night. This will help prove your adultery allegations. You can give your attorney a stack of statements and tell them the paramour's number or you could put the statements in order, highlight just the paramour's calls and provide a summary of the number of calls, the total minutes and the number of texts between your spouse and their paramour. Thus saving your attorney or their staff of having to do this time consuming basic task.

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