There are five types of divorce in South Carolina – you can only get a divorce if you fall into one of those five categories. 

Each state has its own grounds for divorce – some allow no fault divorces based on irreconcilable differences, while others do not. Some states don’t allow fault-based divorces at all. 

South Carolina’s five grounds for divorce include a no-fault divorce based on one-year separation and four fault grounds for divorce. Below, we will discuss each of the five types of divorce in SC and what type of proof each requires. 

Types of Divorce in South Carolina: 

There are five types of divorce, or five grounds for divorce, in South Carolina, including:

  • No fault divorce based on one year separation,
  • Adultery,
  • Physical cruelty,
  • Habitual drunkenness, and
  • Desertion. 

Let’s take a look at each of these, starting with no fault divorces. 

No-Fault Divorce Based on One Year Separation

A no fault divorce means that the breakup is mutual, or at least no one is contesting the divorce. 

SC Code Section 20-3-10(5) says that either spouse can ask for a divorce “when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year.” 

No one has to be at fault, and the parties don’t have to prove anything except they lived separate and apart. What does that mean? 

The parties must remain separated – they can’t live under the same roof and they cannot reconcile during the one-year period. If the parties attempt to reconcile and then decide it’s still not going to work, the one-year clock starts over. 

Does a No-Fault Divorce Mean We Agree on Everything? 

Not necessarily – although it is best to reach an agreement before your final divorce hearing as to child custody, child support, alimony, and division of property, there are cases where those matters are disputed even though the divorce is based on one-year’s separation. 

The grounds for divorce may be mutually agreed upon – one year’s separation – but the details will still have to be worked out, either in negotiations, mediation, or at trial. 

Fault Based Divorce in South Carolina:

There are four types of divorce in South Carolina based on fault grounds, which are adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, and desertion. 

Why blame the other spouse and file for a fault-based divorce? 

Fault in the circumstances that led to divorce, or marital misconduct, can have a significant impact on the final divorce decree, including who gets custody of the children, whether one spouse must pay alimony, and the division of marital assets. 

If your spouse is abusive and/or your children are in danger at your spouse’s home, it may be critical that 1) you get full custody of the children and 2) visitation with your spouse be limited or supervised. 

If your spouse has committed adultery, they are not entitled to alimony. Adultery, physical violence, habitual drunkenness, or other marital misconduct are also factors the court will consider when dividing marital assets. 


Adultery is when one spouse cheats on the other, and it refers to sexual misconduct. It doesn’t matter if it is an ongoing affair or a one-night stand, but, if you “condone the adultery” by reconciling with your spouse, it is no longer a ground for divorce. 

How do you prove adultery? 

  • Witness testimony, including your private investigator,
  • Photos, 
  • Video, or
  • Any other evidence that tends to prove inclination and opportunity to commit adultery. 

Often, our clients use a private investigator to collect the evidence that they need. You don’t have to get photos or video of your spouse committing the act – proof of inclination (holding hands, spending an abnormal amount of time together) and opportunity (walking into a motel room or home together) are usually enough. 

In some cases, it is critical that you prove the adultery because 1) adultery is a complete bar to alimony and 2) marital misconduct is a factor that the court may consider when deciding child custody and division of the marital assets. 

Physical Cruelty

Physical cruelty is another type of divorce in South Carolina. It means physical abuse – pushing, shoving, hitting, or other conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious injury to you. 

How do you prove physical cruelty? 

  • If your spouse has been charged with domestic violence or if you were forced to seek a protective order against them, 
  • Photos or video of injuries, 
  • Medical testimony, or
  • Testimony of family members or friends who either witnessed the abuse or witnessed your injuries. 

If your spouse was convicted of domestic violence or violating a restraining order, they cannot deny the criminal conviction because the standard of proof in criminal court (beyond a reasonable doubt) is higher than the standard of proof in the civil or family courts. 

On the other hand, if they had a domestic violence charge dismissed, that doesn’t prevent you from proving to the family court that the abuse happened – in the family court, the standard of proof is lower than in the criminal courts; therefore, you can still claim physical cruelty as a ground for divorce. 

Habitual Drunkenness

Habitual drunkenness doesn’t just refer to alcohol – it could mean your spouse’s abuse of alcohol or any type of drug. 

It also doesn’t mean your spouse has been diagnosed as an alcoholic or drug addict – you will need to prove that they use alcohol or drugs on a regular basis (this could mean every day, or it could mean twice a week), and their use of alcohol or drugs caused the breakdown of the marriage. 

How do you prove habitual drunkenness? 

Assuming your former spouse doesn’t admit to their problem and the impact it had on your marriage, you can prove your case through:

  • Witness testimony – friend or relatives who have observed your former spouse’s alcohol or drug use,
  • Testimony from your private investigator,
  • Photos or videos, 
  • Evidence that your former spouse was admitted for treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, or
  • Arrests or convictions for alcohol or drug-related offenses. 


The final type of divorce in South Carolina is desertion, or abandonment. 

If your former spouse just disappeared with no explanation, you did not agree to their desertion, and you received no support from your former spouse during the one-year period, you are entitled to a divorce on the ground of desertion. 

As with the other types of divorce, desertion can be proven through witness testimony, including the testimony of a private investigator who has made reasonable attempts to locate your former spouse. 

Questions About Types of Divorce in South Carolina? 

If you are considering separation or divorce, call an experienced South Carolina divorce attorney now who can answer your questions and help to protect your rights during the process.  

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

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