Legal Separation or Temporary Order in SC?

Legal Separation or Temporary Order?

By M. J. Goodwin


Family Court can be confusing. That is why it’s smart to have an experienced Family Court lawyer represent you. One area of confusion is the area of law referred to as “legal separation.” Technically, there is no such thing as a “legal separation.”   What most people mean when referring to “legal separation” is an Order of Separate Maintenance. This is final order. It resolves all issues between two spouses except the divorce itself. Therefore, it can address child custody, visitation, child support, property division, alimony, restraining orders and any other issues that might exist, except the divorce. These orders are typically issued early after a separation, before the one year separation has expired for a “no fault” divorce. Once the year expires, either party can file for a divorce and then a Decree of Divorce is issued, ending the marriage.

An important thing to know about Orders of Separate Maintenance is that adultery will not affect alimony or property division once the Order of Separate Maintenance is signed by the Family Court Judge and filed. This is not the case for a Temporary Order.

A Temporary Order is issued following a temporary hearing, usually issued early in contested litigation. A Temporary Order can affect all the same issues as an Order of Separate Maintenance, with one big difference: it’s not final. A Temporary Order is just that, temporary. Everything in a Temporary Order is subject to change at a final hearing. That includes alimony. If alimony is awarded on a temporary basis, it can be terminated at a final hearing, based on evidence of adultery or on other factors. Similarly, a litigant’s behavior between a Temporary Order and a final hearing can affect custody, visitation and other issues. Sometimes litigants mistakenly call Temporary Orders “Legal Separation.” Knowing the difference is very important.

If you need to clarify your Family Court situation, contact Goodwin Attorney at Law. Email inquiries are usually answered within 12 hours. M. J. Goodwin is a divorce lawyer with 23 years of Family Court experience.  You can reach her at: or by calling 864-375-0909.



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