In actions for separate maintenance and support, the proper venue (the county in which the action must be brought) is: (1) The county in which the parties last resided together as husband and wife unless the Plaintiff is non-resident, in which case it must be brought in the county in which the Defendant resides; (2) The county in which the Defendant resides at the time of the commencement of the action; or (3) The county in which the Plaintiff resides and the Defendant is a non-resident or after due diligence cannot be found.
In order to have jurisdiction over the separate maintenance and support issues, South Carolina does not require a durational residency requirement. However, the Defendant must have sufficient “minimum contracts” with the State of South Carolina in order to satisfy constitutional due process requirements.
A Decree of Separate Maintenance and Support allows that Court to determine all issues arising from the marriage, such as the right to live separate and apart, child custody, visitation and support, alimony, property and debt division, fees and costs and similar issues, without actually dissolving the marriage.
While no particular grounds are required under South Carolina Law for the Court to enter a Decree of Separate Maintenance and Support, such Decrees are typically based upon some level of fault not rising to the level of grounds for divorce, but which gives the Court good cause to intervene. That level of fault has included actual or threatened violence affecting health or life, or particularly strong words of reproach or accusation, desertion where the one year has not yet run, or obscene or revolting indecent practices rendering continued cohabitation improper, or failure to support the family.
In South Carolina there is no such thing as “legal separation”. Other phrases that are equivalent to a “legal separation” are a limited divorce, divorce a mensa et thoro, and divorce from bed and board.
Many of the defenses that apply in a traditional divorce action, which are discussed below in the Divorce section, apply in some measure to an action for separate maintenance and support.