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DIVORCE AND SEPARATION

What are my first steps to getting a divorce?

How long will my divorce take?

How much will my divorce cost?

How can I change my married name to my maiden/birth name?

My spouse and I are splitting amicably. Can we share an attorney?

I previously was covered under my spouse's health-insurance policy. What are my options now?

I have moved out of my marital home. How do I change my address?

Who do I need to notify that my address has changed?

Do I need to get a new driver's license with my new address?

My estranged spouse and I have trouble speaking to each other without getting into an argument. What is the best solution to communicating effectively with my spouse?

What is and what is not appropriate to call my attorney about when my spouse is being difficult?





Q: What are my first steps to getting a divorce?

The first step to getting a divorce is deciding that you really want a divorce and are ready to pursue one.  I recommend that a person who is thinking about seeking a divorce talk first with a counselor or spiritual leader.  An empathic attorney also can help one sort out the issues of marriage and divorce and assess whether there is anything that can be done to help the parties reconcile.  If a person is persuaded that a divorce is inevitable or that s/he is ready to seek a divorce, then s/he should talk with an attorney about South Carolina's grounds for divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, alimony and separate support and maintenance, marital and non-marital property, mediation, and other issues that often are raised in an action for divorce.   


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Q: How long will my divorce take?

The time it takes from the initial interview with an attorney until the final divorce decree varies and is based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the parties' ability to communicate and cooperate effectively in deciding matters related to the parties' children and property, the ground or grounds on which the divorce action is based, and the need for attorneys to obtain information to help the parties make decisions in their children's and the parties' own best interests.  In many cases, settling, with or without mediation, can reduce the amount of time that it takes to obtain a final divorce decree.


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Q: How much will my divorce cost?

The cost of a divorce action is based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the parties' ability and willingness to negotiate with each other, the number of times the parties have to go to court for a determination of an issue (e.g., separate support, child custody and support, mediation), the need for depositions or other discovery (i.e., obtaining information from the other party or from other persons, such as subpoenas for medical or financial records), the amount of time the attorney must commit to pursuing and promoting the client's interests, court costs (e.g., filing fees, motion and order fees, service of process fees), the attorney's out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., copying/printing, postage, travel-related expenses), and other professional fees (e.g., forensic accountant, psychologist, guardian ad litem). 


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Q: How can I change my married name to my maiden/birth name?

A name change must be requested through the county family court where the person seeking the name change lives.  If the person wanting the name change is seeking a divorce (i.e., is the Plaintiff), the request can be made in the Complaint, or the Defendant spouse can request the name change in the Answer and Counterclaim. 

If a single or married adult who is not seeking a divorce wants to change his or her name, then a petition requesting the name change must be filed in the appropriate county family court.  This petition must state the reason for the change, the petitioner's age, his or her place of residence and birth, and the name by which s/he desires to be known.  Also, the person must provide the following with the petition to the family court:

*   The results of a fingerprint and criminal background check conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division.

*   A screening statement from the Department of Social Services that indicates whether the person is listed on the Department's Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect.

*   An affidavit, signed by the petitioner and notarized, that indicates whether the petitioner is under a court order to pay child support or alimony.

*   A screening statement from the State Law Enforcement Division that indicates whether the person is listed on the division's sex offender registry. 


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Q: My spouse and I are splitting amicably. Can we share an attorney?

Technically yes, practically no.  The problem with sharing an attorney is that the attorney realistically cannot have an allegiance to either party, and there is no effective confidentiality between the parties and the attorney, so the attorney-client privilege is destroyed.  When a person retains an attorney, that attorney represents the client.  This means that the attorney is bound to promoting and pursuing that client's best interests.  When two parties seek a divorce, even an amicable one, issues can arise about which the the parties disagree.  It is impossible to anticipate all the issues that can become conflictual between the parties during the pendency of the divorce.    


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Q: I previously was covered under my spouse's health-insurance policy. What are my options now?

The first thing to do is contact your spouse's health-insurance carrier and ask for its policies regarding coverage of ex-spouses.  If after your divorce you cannot continue to be covered directly under your spouse's health-insurance plan, then you might be able to continue coverage under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985).  Under COBRA, a divorced person who, during the marriage, was covered under a spouse's health-insurance plan may continue for up to 36 months group health-care insurance under the ex-spouse's group health-care insurance plan.  You must notify the health-care plan administrator of your intention to seek COBRA coverage within 60 days of your divorce decree or separate maintenance and support order.


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Q: I have moved out of my marital home. How do I change my address?

A notice should be filed with the United States Postal Service using PS Form 3575 or online at www.usps.com.  You can get a Mover's Guide with an official change of address kit from any United States Post Office.  Be sure to change the address for all your magazines and newspapers because the USPS will forward them only for 60 days.  Circulars, books, catalogs, and advertising mail under 16 ounces will not be forwarded unless the mailer expressly requests forwarding.  Packages weighing 16 ounces or more will be forwarded for 12 months, but you will be charged forwarding charges if you move outside the local area.  If you do not want this class of mail to be forwarded to you, you should notify the USPS of your desire. 

You also should change your address with the state that issued your driver's license.  And notify your employer so that your tax documents can be mailed to your correct address and all your benefits documents can be updated. 


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Q: Who do I need to notify that my address has changed?

Anyone and everyone from whom you want to receive mail.  It is not prudent to expect that your spouse or ex-spouse will forward to you mail that is addressed to you.  Also, it is not prudent to rely on the USPS to forward all of your mail.  Unfortunately, the fine workers at USPS make mistakes (as do we all) and can miss mail addressed to you, thus delivering it to your former address.  Being proactive and making sure that the people from whom you expect mail know how to reach you is the best defense. 

Examples of who should be notified of an address change include, but are not limited to, the following:

*   Department of Motor Vehicles

*   Financial institutions

*   Employer

*   Educational institutions

*   Insurance companies (e.g., automobile, homeowners, health, life, disability)

*   Friends and family members


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Q: Do I need to get a new driver's license with my new address?

Definitely, because the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will mail your driver's license renewal notice to the address that is in the DMV file.  Your address on your driver's license and automobile insurance policy should be the same.


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Q: My estranged spouse and I have trouble speaking to each other without getting into an argument. What is the best solution to communicating effectively with my spouse?

Some attorneys "forbid" their clients from talking to the other party during the divorce action.  My philosophy is that if the parties cannot communicate effectively, then trying to talk to each other is like throwing sand in each other's faces.  I often encourage a client in such a situation to let me be his or her spokesperson.  If the other party has an attorney, then I only communicate with that attorney.  If the other party does not have an attorney, then I speak directly with him or her after making sure that the party understands that I do not represent or advocate for his or her interests in any way. 

Sometimes parties can communicate with each other more effectively via email.  However, email also can be used to "cyberstalk" the other person and become a tool of harassment.  When that happens, the client can change his or her email address or simply refuse to accept or reply to the other party's email. 


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Q: What is and what is not appropriate to call my attorney about when my spouse is being difficult?

This is a judgment call for the client, but a general rule of thumb is that if you want your attorney to do something for you, or if you are fearful of your spouse or ex-spouse, or if you are providing information to your attorney that she requested or that you believe is important to your case, then, by all means, do not hesitate to contact your attorney.  If you just want to complain about your spouse or ex-spouse, then you might want to think twice about calling your attorney. 


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The Law Office of Judith Ann Whiting assists clients with Estate Administration, Elder law, Adoption, Divorce and Family Law in South Carolina including Columbia, Sumter, Winnsboro and Lexington.



© 2014 Law Office of Dr. Judith Ann Whiting, LLC | Disclaimer
1408 Gregg Street, Columbia, SC 29201
| Phone: (803) 256-7513
P.O. Box 5815, Columbia, SC 29250
| Phone: (803) 256-7513

Family Law | Collaborative Divorce |

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