While it's not something that most people give much thought to when deciding to file for divorce, one of the first issues that attorneys must consider is determining whether South Carolina has jurisdiction. Because before a court has the authority to take any action in a case, it must first determine that it has jurisdiction to do so.
Jurisdiction involves the relationship or contact that a person has with the state where the court resides. A court's ability to hear and decide a divorce case is determined by the residency and domicile of a party and his or her spouse. The general rule in the United States is that a person needs to file a divorce action in the state or county where the residency requirements are met.
What are the residency requirements for divorce in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, there are three basic ways our state can have jurisdiction to enable someone to institute an action for divorce:
- The person filing the action must have resided in South Carolina for at least one year before the commencement of the action.*
- If, on the other hand, the plaintiff is a non-resident, the defendant must have resided in South Carolina for at least one year prior to commencement of the action.
- Finally, in cases where both parties are residents of South Carolina, the case may be filed after both parties have resided in here for three month prior to filing.
Where does the divorce take place?
After you determine that South Carolina has jurisdiction, the next question is that of venue, the county in which the case should be filed. Divorce petitions may be filed in either:
- The county in which the defendant resides;
- The county in which the plaintiff resides, if the defendant is a nonresident; or
- The county in which the parties last resided together, unless the plaintiff is a nonresident, in which case it must be brought in the county where the defendant resides.
*Note: If the Plaintiff lives in South Carolina but the Defendant does not, the Court will be able to dissolve the marriage, but it will not have jurisdiction to address any other issues, such as asset-debt distribution, alimony, or child-related issues.