Bill could lower separation time for divorces - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Bill could lower separation time for divorces

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

The US Census reports reveal the Southern Bible Belt has some of the highest divorce rates in the nation.

South Carolina is considering joining step with neighboring states to make the often messy divorce process a little bit easier for the families that go through it.

If you find yourself in such a situation in this state, you have a mandatory year long separation period to look forward to.

"It's almost like there was a desire to leave me completely broke and empty-handed, and that almost happened," said divorcee Stephen Bramell.

After a spinal injury left Bramell unable to work, he found his marriage had crumbled under the weight of hard times.

"She changed the locks on the house, so I had nowhere to go; had to come live with my parents," said Bramell.

A year and $5,000 in legal fees later, Bramell and others are seeking to change the state's divorce laws.

"Divorce is damaging," said state Rep. Walt McLeod, D-District 40. "The intent of this bill is to minimize damage, particularly to children of tender years."

McLeod is proposing shortening the required separation time for no fault divorces from one year to six months or less.

"People have to live separately and apart," said McLeod. "That's two different households, two sets of expenses, that's very costly in this day and time.

"I think it's a bad message to send, and I think its worth asking people to wait a period of time, hoping that during that period of time there'll be some restoration," said Eddie Coakley, senior pastor at Trinity Baptist Church.

A child of divorce himself, Coakley says changing the law for the sake of convenience sends the wrong message to future generations.

"I'd like to think South Carolina would be a state that leads in morality," said Coakley. "Be known as a state that keeps its commitments. I understand the pain of divorce, but its also a time when a counselor can come in from outside and do a lot of good.

But many like Bramell say when its over, it's over.

"I don't think we should be a beacon of hope by making our citizens suffer through a year-long divorce process," said Bramell.

In many surrounding states, with the exception of North Carolina, the mandatory separation period for no fault divorces is as low as 60 days. This bill has received a positive recommendation in the State House thus far, and it will be taken up again next session.

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