23 Jul Divorce in South Carolina and How COVID-19 Has Helped to Simplify the Process
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused every aspect of our lives to change—from the way we spend time with our loved ones to the way we shop for groceries. The legal arena is no different. The South Carolina Supreme Court has recognized that there is a need for people continue moving forward, even while in quarantine. In recognizing this, the Supreme Court has temporarily altered the standard procedures for having an agreement approved and/or having a divorce finalized. Both procedures typically require a court appearance by the parties involved, but the Supreme Court Order dated April 14, 2020 now allows for uncontested divorces and approval of agreements to go forward with no court appearance whatsoever.
Uncontested divorces now require written testimony from each of the parties along with state-issued identification, written testimony from a witness that can attest to the divorce grounds and state issued identification, a decree of divorce, and a certification from an attorney.
Agreements can be submitted for approval with similar documentation.
The documents are then submitted to a Family Court Judge who approve by signing and filing the Order. If there is an issue observed by the Judge, the documents are mailed back to the submitting attorney with an explanation of the problem.
While the process may take a bit longer than a typical 15-minute approval hearing, it has eliminated the delays that typically occur when awaiting scheduling, which in some counties, can be over a month.
Many Family Courts in South Carolina suffer from a back log of hearings. There are simply too many cases and not enough time and/or resources to get litigants in front of a judge immediately. Allowing the uncontested divorces and agreements to be finalized without a court appearance frees up a significant amount of time on the docket, which in turn allows the court system to focus on urgent and more contested matters. Experts have said that the changes we are experiencing from COVID-19 are here for the foreseeable future. In this particular case, that might not be such a bad thing.