As divorce attorneys in Charleston, we’ve seen that adultery can affect the grounds for divorce, claims for alimony, the division of marital property, the calculation of alimony, child custody and visitation, and attorney’s fees. In this article, we explain what is adultery in South Carolina and explain in detail how adultery can impact your divorce.
What is Adultery in South Carolina?
South Carolina law defines adultery as intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s spouse. Adultery is one of the “fault-based” grounds for divorce in South Carolina. If you can prove adultery to the court, then you can be divorced in as little as 90 days from the date you filed your case. However, if the other issues in the case are not resolved, rarely does the issue of a divorce get decided that quickly.
Adultery is a Bar to Alimony in South Carolina
If a spouse gets caught in adultery, that spouse is “barred” (permanently prevented) from receiving alimony from the other spouse. The only exceptions to this rule are (1) if the parties have already formally signed a written property or marital settlement agreement or (2) if the court has issued a permanent order of separate support and maintenance or approved a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties. So, if the parties are merely separated but planning on getting divorced, the spouse seeking alimony can bar him or herself from receiving alimony if he or she engages in a romantic relationship with another person. We regularly advise our clients to hold off on dating until we get the case resolved, and we caution them not to put themselves in a situation where an innocent “friendly” relationship could be construed the wrong way. Click here to learn how to prove adultery in South Carolina.
Impact on the Equitable Division of Marital Debts and Assets
One of the things that the family court must do in a divorce case is to divide the marital assets and debts. South Carolina law gives a list of factors for the judge to consider when making this division. One of the factors is the “marital misconduct or fault of either or both parties, whether or not used as a basis for a divorce as such, if the misconduct affects or has affected the economic circumstances of the parties, or contributed to the breakup of the marriage.” Adultery counts as “marital misconduct or fault.” So, a party guilty of adultery may have his or her share of the marital estate reduced because of the adultery. It’s important to remember that “marital misconduct or fault” is only one factor of many for the court to consider. In some cases, the adultery does not make a huge difference in the division of the marital estate. In others, it makes a huge difference.