The court cannot hold a final hearing for divorce on the grounds of adultery, physical cruelty, or habitual drunkenness until sixty days after the plaintiff files the summons with the clerk of court.

As a practical matter, the court will not hold the final hearing on these grounds until ninety days after the summons was filed because the decree of divorce cannot be final until ninety days after filing. No minimum time exists for a divorce on the grounds of the separation of the parties without cohabitation for a period of one year. No matter what the ground, the defending spouse has thirty days to respond to the complaint, although the defendant may waive the time. These are minimum times. Frequently contested cases take six months to a year or more to reach a final hearing.

The law requires the judge to ask if there is any possibility of a reconciliation or if he can do anything, such as order counseling, to help reestablish the marriage. At the final hearing, unlike the temporary hearing, the court will hear all witnesses, and will decide all issues.

The term final hearing is a misnomer. Child custody and child support are never final while any child is a minor because the court may change child custody or child support on proof of a substantial change in circumstances. Likewise, the court may modify or end alimony any time before the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the spouse receiving it, absent a provision it is nonmodifiable.

If a party disobeys or violates a provision of the decree of divorce, then going back to court to enforce the decree of divorce may be necessary.



If a party appeals from the final decree of divorce, then the appellate court, usually the South Carolina Court of Appeals, may do several things. These include affirmance of the trial court leaving the decree of divorce in effect, reversal of the trial court and alteration or modification of the decree of divorce, reversal of the trial court and return of the case to the family court for a new hearing, or a mixture of these actions regarding different issues.