What Do You Do When You are Served Divorce Papers in South Carolina

So you have been served with divorce papers by your spouse?  First, let’s define what “being served” really means.  When you are served, your spouse has had someone deliver the papers to you.  South Carolina laws prevent your spouse or his/her attorney from being the people that actually serve you and Rule 4 of the Rules of Civil Procedure govern and determine what proper service is and how service can be made on a defendant.

So, now that you have been delivered your divorce papers, you don’t know what to do.  Well, the first thing you should do is make a note of when you were served the papers.  The date and time will be very important in your divorce case because of strict time lines that apply to both you and your spouse.

The next thing you should do is read the paperwork that is served on you.  Many times in a divorce case the plaintiff’s attorney will request a hearing at the very beginning of the case called a temporary hearing where they will request some specific relief such as child custody, child support an alimony.  The rules only require you to get five days notice of this hearing so you may need to act quickly to schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer in order to have them represent you at the temporary hearing.

The next time line that applies is 30 days.  You have thirty days from the date you are served to file an answer to your spouse’s complaint.  If you are later than 30 days you may be in default and can forfeit some of your rights provided by the law.  Therefore, it is extremely important that you formally respond to the allegations in your spouse’s complaint by filing an “Answer” with the family court and serving that on your spouse and his/her attorney.

I do not recommend that you go it alone in your divorce case.  As soon as your are served with divorce papers, I recommend that you immediately consult with an attorney to learn your rights and to get a game plan.  You may not like the attorney you meet with initially and may want to consult with several attorneys.  If you wait too long and do not leave yourself and your future attorney any time to respond you will lose the opportunity to shop and find the right attorney for you.


  1. Can the witness’ in the no-fault divorce final hearing be
    an adult child of the plaintiff?

    • Hi Don,

      Thanks for your question. As long as the adult child is not of the marriage then it will be fine to use them as a witness. I wouldn’t suggest using a child of the marriage as a witness – eve in an uncontested divorce.


  2. My papers were stuck in the door jamb at my house when I was out for the day. There were big storms that afternoon, high winds and heavy rain. These papers could have blown away and I NOT show up at the meeting. This is a big deal to me. Must a server actually hand you the papers or can they be dropped off like they were? Colleton County, SC Thanks

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