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Help! How Can I Get Started Seeking Financial Assistance from my Spouse?

Question: My husband has deserted me and refuses to help me financially. He has moved in with his mistress and won’t have any contact with me! How do I file for spousal support? He is refusing to help me.

Answer: You should consult with a lawyer immediately so that you can move forward with the Family Court to get some immediate relief. Unfortunately, the only way to obtain the relief you are seeking is to file an action with the Family Court for divorce/separation and request this relief through a Motion for Temporary Relief. I strongly suggest hiring a lawyer because alimony is a complex issue and there are some strict procedural rules about what the Court may consider at a temporary hearing and if you do not comply with those rules you may forfeit your rights or just plain miss out on relief you are entitled to.

In South Carolina you have the option to file for divorce using one of five grounds (physical abuse, habitual drunkenness, adultery, desertion, or continuous separation for more than one year). You also have the alternative to file for separate support and maintenance which is similar to a legal separation. Those are essentially your keys to the courthouse. No matter which way you file, you will be able to ask the court to award you immediate relief such as alimony/spousal support, custody of minor children, child support, use of the marital home, health insurance coverage, etc.

The family court will consider multiple factors in determining whether to award you alimony or not, and then if it does determine that you are eligible for support the Court will determine how much to award. The factors considered will be things like your ages, physical and mental health, employment history, income history, why you are currently unemployed (e.g. agreement to stay at home and raise the children), other assets you have, tax implications, length of the marriage, and a few more.

As a side note and warning, I would encourage you to file something sooner rather than later. The longer you go without financial assistance from your spouse, the more it appears that it is not needed. While that is not a specific factor considered by the Court it could be relevant and a long term separation without a request for support could make it unlikely that you would be awarded support.

To learn more about Temporary Hearings, check out these posts:

Divorce Process: What is a Temporary Hearing

What is a Divorce Temporary Hearing

Definition: Temporary Divorce Hearing

Temporary Hearing – What’s Next?

What Happens After my Temporary Hearing?

Is there an Advantage to Winning at the Temporary Hearing?

What Goes in my Affidavit?

My Spouse Won’t Leave…Can I Still File for Divorce?

Recently, this question was posted as a comment on a blog post, “I want a divorce because my husband is a verbal and physical abuser when he drunks. Be won’t leave the house. Can I still file for divorce?”

South Carolina has five grounds for divorce: physical abuse, habitual drunkenness, adultery, desertion, and the no fault ground of living apart continuously for a period in excess of one year.  If you do not qualify for one of the fault-based grounds for divorce you could also file for separate support and maintenance.

The desertion ground and no fault ground for divorce requires that you live separate and apart for more than one year.  You are also required to live in separate residences to file for separate support and maintenance.  So, if your circumstances fall into one of those three categories and you cannot get your spouse to leave the home, your only option will be to leave the home yourself and immediately file for separation or divorce and seek possession of the home as temporary relief at an initial hearing.

If you are filing under physical abuse, habitual drunkenness, or adultery grounds you do not have to live separate and apart before filing for divorce.  Under those circumstances you may file while you are still living together.  But, just because you are able to do something doesn’t mean it is the right course of action for you.  If your spouse is verbally and physically abusive under the best circumstances, how do you think they will respond when they have been served with divorce papers?  It would probably not be safe for you to remain in the home with your spouse during that time.

I would suggest setting up a consultation with a divorce attorney in your area to discuss the circumstances of your case to determine if your case will qualify for one of those fault-based divorces and to come up with a strategy that will help you remain in your home, but under safe circumstances.

How do South Carolina Family Courts divide property and debts in divorce cases

There are two main division methods in divorce law nationwide: community property and equitable apportionment states.  South Carolina is an equitable apportionment state. So, what does that mean? Equitable Apportionment means that South Carolina Family Courts have jurisdiction in a divorce case to divide up the marital assets and debts acquired during the marriage.  Our Code of Laws […]

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What should I expect at the initial consultation with my divorce lawyer?

When you meet with a lawyer to discuss your divorce case you want to know something tangible.  You have hundreds of questions and worries floating around in your head.  How much with this cost?  What is the worst case scenario?  Will I lose my kids?  How long with this take?  And many more. The initial […]

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When should you seek modification of your child support?

A while back, I made a rare visit to the county jail to meet with a client.  Several years ago, he and his former wife reached an agreement in their divorce about custody, visitation and child support.  Things were pretty good – as far as divorces go. Fast forward a few years…his dependable job and […]

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