Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer in South Carolina?

Sometimes, people think they don’t need a divorce lawyer to get a divorce in South Carolina. Let’s say a couple is ready to get divorced. They already agree the marriage should end, so in theory it should be simple. Why waste money on a lawyer for an uncontested divorce?

Because what seems simple in the beginning can become very complicated. Even if the couple agrees on a divorce, they may not agree on child custody, property/debt division, and so on. That’s where many uncontested divorces become contested. That’s where a lawyer comes in.

Having a lawyer help you negotiate your divorce is very helpful. Oftentimes, your first time in court may be your divorce. It’s confusing. It’s full of emotion. It’s scary. But when you have a lawyer working with you, you have someone who knows the process. A lawyer can help you make the best decisions for yourself.

You don’t need an attorney to get an uncontested divorce in South Carolina. You don’t even need one for a contested divorce. But here are some things to consider before rushing to represent yourself.

You Might Need a Divorce Lawyer to Help Guide You Through the Court

Let’s say you’ve done all your research and found some forms for a divorce in South Carolina. But you don’t know what forms are necessary. The clerk’s office can’t help you. They can’t tell you what needs to go into the documents. They can’t tell you how to serve someone. And, if you don’t do something correctly, you may need to start a case all over.

Hiring a lawyer for your divorce takes out the uncertainty and guess-work. By hiring a lawyer, you don’t need to worry about serving someone, or drafting documents. You don’t need to worry about following court procedure.

Hiring a lawyer can also make sure your case is filed in the right county. Sometimes, filing for divorce is easy. Both spouses live in the same county, and the logical step is to file at that county’s courthouse. But what if a couple separates and the spouses live in different counties or states? That’s where it gets complicated.

Where you live during your marriage can also affect how you divide property. Let’s say you live in California for part of your marriage. California is a “community property state.” South Carolina is not. You have to consider the community property separately from the rest.

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You Might Need a Divorce Lawyer For Our Expertise

There may be things you haven’t considered in your divorce. Sure, you’ve both decided who keeps the house, who keeps the car, and who gets the dog. But have you thought about the tax implications?

If you have kids, have you thought about all the intricacies of the visitation schedule? You’re getting along fine now, but what if you and your soon-to-be ex have a falling out in two years? Are your rights protected or are there big loopholes in your agreement that you aren’t even aware of? Have you thought about the changes that will happen when you children are school-aged? What about issues with paternity? And, if you’re getting a divorce while pregnant, you would likely need a divorce lawyer because that situation is very complicated.

It’s harder (and more expensive) to fix issues after the court grants the divorce. Having a lawyer can make things go more smoothly as you move on to your life after marriage.

Divorce Lawyers Offer Different Scopes of Representation

In many situations, you will need a divorce lawyer to full-on litigate your divorce. If you have a high-conflict divorce, you’re better off hiring a divorce lawyer than representing yourself. When we accept a new divorce case, we plan out our strategy based on the facts of the case. There is a lot of strategic planning in a case shortly before or after filing. This planning is crucial to get you the best outcomes, including:

    • Which parent gets primary child custody
    • Setting a child support amount
    • Setting an alimony amount
    • Property division on a temporary or permanent basis
    • Putting in appropriate restraining orders
    • Conducting discovery
    • Helping you determine which marital debts you should assume

You might especially need a divorce lawyer if you have a high-asset divorce. Our attorneys walk you through the finances of separating and divorcing your spouse. Our attorneys can also request crucial documents for your divorce during discovery. This will make sure that your divorce decree is fair to you.

In other situations, you may not need a full scope of representation. You can then get legal services through a limited scope of representation.

For example, you may only need a divorce lawyer to review a settlement agreement with you. The purpose of this is to tell you whether the agreement is fair to you. Our attorneys can guide you on what may be missing from the agreement.

Or you may need a divorce lawyer to only draft the documents for you. The South Carolina Supreme Court offers free forms for self-represented divorces. But these forms are generic, and they do not cover every situation. They also don’t help you request temporary orders.

Hiring a Divorce Lawyer Saves Money

We’ve had many cases where clients come to us after trying to go at it themselves. Most of the time, We have to redo all the documents. Furthermore, once the client filed something, it started the 365-day clock. In South Carolina, if a divorce does not show signs of ending after 1 year, the judge dismisses the case. If the client comes to us 6 months after filing, we lost 6 months worth of time. As a result, the divorce is rushed, which wouldn’t have happened had the client just called us first.

We may choose to dismiss the case and refile the case. But that adds another $150.00 filing fee, plus costs for serving. It also costs clients time for our redrafting the documents. Even if we reset the clock, it still adds expense. Unfortunately, this is sometimes the best choice if we aren’t hired soon enough.

What about LegalZoom, LegalShield, etc.?

These sites market themselves as providing legal documents for the DIY crowd. Unfortunately, the documents they give you usually have a lot of shortcomings.

A lot of the documents that they give you are one-size-fits all. For example, they may give you a template for a general divorce–but that’s already free on the Supreme Court’s website! Why pay money in that case? You may need a divorce lawyer to do what these companies can’t do. A local divorce lawyer makes sure that your filings have everything you need.

Plus, these companies don’t take into account the differences between states or counties. In South Carolina, each county does some things differently. These sites don’t give you all the documents you need.

But most importantly: you need a divorce lawyer who knows how local judges are likely to rule. You need a divorce lawyer who knows which arguments certain judges consider more impressive than others. LegalZoom and similar companies cannot do this for you.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

I’ve had clients bring me LegalZoom docs and ask if I can use those to save money on my fees. Using LegalZoom documents may seem like a shortcut. But in practice, we spend more time editing LegalZoom documents than it would take to draft the documents ourselves. This means more cost to clients. Instead, it’s easier to draft new pleadings for your case.

Can’t We Just Hire One Lawyer?

No. A lawyer can only represent one spouse in a divorce. To represent both parties would be a conflict of interest. The lawyer can still draft up the documents according to the spouses’ agreement. But it has to be in line with the wishes of the spouse the lawyer is representing.

Also, the lawyer can’t give the other spouse legal advice. Your spouse would be on their own to hire their own attorney or represent themselves. Your lawyer cannot tell your spouse whether they should accept a settlement. Nor should they! Your lawyer represents you and your interests–not your spouse’s. Both spouses can work together, but the lawyer can only represent one spouse. This also means only one spouse can direct the lawyer.


Before you decide to take the DIY divorce route, contact us for a free consultation. Tell us your needs and see how we can accommodate you without breaking your bank.