Regardless of whether you've been thinking about divorce for a while or if there have been recent events which lead you to believe divorce is the only option left, the questions you will have about the process and where to start will likely be similar. It's important to understand you're not alone in this process. Following are several things to remember as you make the important decisions that are to come your way.
Feeling Overwhelmed is Common
First, it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed about the whole divorce process. A smart first step is to contact an experienced family law attorney. Just because you contact an attorney does not mean that you have or will have to file for divorce. These initial consultations with attorneys will help you understand the divorce process more thoroughly and help to give you a better idea of whether or not you want to proceed further. Having a consultation with a family law attorney will also help to alleviate the overwhelming nature of preparing for and filing for separation or divorce.
Information is Key
Second, in order to help you prepare for divorce, you can begin to compile a list of all your assets and liabilities and gather all of your important financial documents. Begin to educate yourself on your family's finances, especially if you are not the spouse who is responsible for the family finances on a regular basis. In South Carolina, the marital estate will be equitably divided at the time the divorce is finalized. If you have a better understanding of the financial situation of the marital estate prior to filing for divorce, you will have a better grasp of how the marital estate should or might be distributed. If you're unsure of what types of documents or information the Court may need for the property division process, ask your attorney for a checklist of documents you should be able to produce.
Trial Can Be Avoided
Third, many people do not want to go through a contested or ugly trial in the family court and they may hold off from filing for divorce to avoid it altogether. However, in South Carolina, just because you file for a divorce does not mean that you have to go through a contested or ugly trial in the family court. Mediation is a required process in South Carolina where a neutral, third-party mediator attempts to facilitate an agreement for the contested issues in the divorce case. If the parties are able to come to an agreement through mediation, they only have to appear in front of the judge for a final hearing approving the mediated agreement and finalizing the divorce. This process usually takes about fifteen to twenty minutes on the day of the hearing. There is no trial thus no fear of having to testify about all the private details of your marriage breakdown in court or and having other witnesses airing all of your dirty laundry in the public record.
What About the Children?
Finally, if there are minor children involved and you are concerned about how you and your potential ex-spouse are going to co-parent them, start thinking now about how you want to share time with the children. There is no requirement to have the court involved in that determination, though the Family Court will have final "approval" over the agreement if you and your spouse agree to a schedule. For many parents, they feel that a judge, who has very little information about the minor children, is in a far inferior position to decide what is best for the minor children and they wish to make those decisions between themselves. This is the ideal way to deal with children's issues during a divorce, but even when you are unable to agree, the family court judge will make a temporary decision and allow the parties to attempt to mediate those issues before the divorce is finalized.
Whether it is a sense of being overwhelmed or a fear of having to go through a contested trial, many individuals unnecessarily hold off from filing for divorce. Choosing to file for divorce is a very personal decision, but we are here to help guide you through the process when needed.
The Stevens Firm, P.A. - Family Law Center has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over two decades, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. We are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us at (864) 598-9172 to schedule an initial consultation.