Surprisingly to many, there is no such thing as legal separation in South Carolina because the law does not recognize "legal separation." However, either spouse can petition the Family Court to issue an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support. An Order of Separate Maintenance and Support is a type of alimony when the spouses aren't actually seeking a divorce. This Order addresses many of the same issues that can also arise in a divorce action such as: the specific details regarding child custody and visitation; the frequency and duration that one spouse should pay support to the other spouse; as well as maintaining marital assets and paying marital debts. Initially these Orders are granted on a temporary basis until a final hearing is held or unless the parties can reach an agreement. Because the initial Order of Separate Maintenance and Support is a temporary order, this Order is subject to what is known at the 365 day rule. The 365 day rule states that if the parties do no enter and agreement or ask for a final hearing to be scheduled, then the case is administratively dismissed. When the case is dismissed, all previous orders of support become void and the parties have to start all over if they wish to pursue a final order of support.
An Order for Separate Maintenance and Support does not cover the issue of divorce, and it will not end the marriage. This type of order is to be used when the parties no longer live together, but are not actually seeking a divorce.
Even when an Order of Separate Maintenance and Support has been issued by a Family Court, this does not mean that either spouse can consent to or engage in sexual activity with a third party. The parties are still married and doing so would violate South Carolina law. If you have more questions about Separation, divorce, or family law, contact Burns Law Firm P.C. If you are considering a divorce in Columbia, We have the experience you can trust.