It can be a real shock to some people when a divorce is finally initiated. Maybe you saw it coming, but were surprised at the specific timing, or maybe you were caught completely unaware. Either way, it can take time to process what has happened and to begin mentally preparing yourself for the divorce that has now officially begun. Unfortunately, once papers have been formally filed, a clock begins to tick and you must take certain steps within allotted periods of time or risk harming your interests in the divorce. How long do you have to respond to divorce papers in South Carolina?
What starts the clock ticking?
Many people are confused about what act starts the divorce clock ticking. Is it when you meet with a lawyer for the first time or when the Complaint for Divorce is filed? No on both counts. The countdown officially begins when your spouse is served with theSummons and Complaint. Once service has been perfected against the other party, the divorce officially begins and timing becomes important.
How long do you have to respond?
Once you receive a Summons and Complaint, you need to act quickly. At this point, you have thirty (30) days to file your responsive pleadings, typically an Answer or an Answer and Counterclaim. The Answer is exactly what it sounds like, as it contains your response to the allegations made in your spouse's Complaint. If you file a Counterclaim, it not only allows you to disagree with any points made by your spouse, but also allows you to make any claims of your own. These are very important documents and must be filed in a timely manner. Any delay could harm your case, which is a very bad way to start a divorce proceeding.
What to do after receiving the divorce papers
Time is of the utmost importance once divorce papers have been filed. After receiving a Summons and Complaint, it is understandable that you need a chance to process what has happened. However, it is best to take that time to think after reaching out to a family law attorney. The sooner you find an attorney to begin working on your behalf, the better. Though you may not personally be prepared to respond, your attorney can start preparing papers and drafting an Answer, leaving you more time to process what has happened. Though it's understandable why someone would wait to hire an attorney, allowing themselves time to get used to the idea, this wasted time can prove costly in the long run.
Source: “Instructions for Completing the Self-Represented Litigant Simple Divorce Packet,” published atSCCourts.org.