If this year’s presidential election has taught us anything, it is that none of us need to venture far when looking for a fight. While I have yet to meet with a prospective client looking for a divorce because of election-related marital strife, it has become abundantly clear that discord can develop due to any number of root causes.
Infidelity, reckless spending, and spousal abuse are standard fare in this business, but from time to time, the occasional spouse will seek to commence marital litigation based upon something a little less conventional.
For example, one man was dissatisfied with his marriage because his wife kept backing into things with their vehicles. Another woman was unhappy in her marriage in large part because, no matter how many times she warned her husband, he never put his dirty dishes in the dishwasher or even in the sink.
Having listened to and discussed a list of her husband’s undesirable behaviors that day, I reflected upon my own actions and bought flowers for my wonderful (and endlessly understanding) wife on my way home from the office.
“What are these for?” she asked me.
“I need to have a reason to buy flowers for my wife?” I responded. My internal monologue, however, was humming: holy crap, everything that the other guy does wrong, I do, too.
The truth is, it doesn’t have to be dirty dishes, dastardly dents, or differing viewpoints on taxes, immigration reform, and international trade policy – marital discord can come from anywhere.
Even as a Family Law attorney, I prefer that nobody go through the anguish and cost of a divorce, so one of my first questions directed to prospective clients is whether marital counseling has been attempted. Sometimes, though, the discontent is simply too much to overcome.
“Irreconcilable differences,” that mainstay of divorce among the Hollywood set, is not among the grounds for divorce here in South Carolina, at least not right away. As noted elsewhere on LowcountryDivorceAndFamilyLaw.com, South Carolina requires that two people with irreconcilable differences live separate and apart for a continuous period of one year prior to filing an action for divorce in the absence of fault grounds such as adultery, desertion, physical cruelty, and habitual drunkenness and drug abuse.
That doesn’t mean, however, that two people who have consciously decided to part ways must wait in some form of quasi-postmarital limbo for an entire trip around the sun. So long as the parties have separated, we can commence an action seeking a Final Order of Separate Support and Maintenance, which would allow a husband and wife to life separately and apart as though unmarried while they wait out the statutory requirements for divorce absent fault. During such an action, the spouses can also work toward a resolution when it comes to custodial issues, financial issues, and other issues inherent to the dissolution of a marital relationship.
Many people around this state take great issue with the requirement that dissatisfied couples live separate and apart for a full year, and we’ll get to my feelings on that in a future blog post. In the meantime, understand that there are a host of options available to someone in such a position to move forward into the next chapter of life as smoothly as possible.