Adultery can mark the end of marriage for many couples, breaking an implied trust of fidelity. Some states regard adultery as a serious violation against a marriage and may attach certain legal repercussions against the unfaithful spouse. In South Carolina, adultery is considered an actual crime, punishable by jail time or fine. South Carolina law can also affect future divorce proceedings, including child custody and alimony.
Definition of Adultery
South Carolina law defines adultery as the act of engaging in habitual sexual intercourse, while married, with an unmarried individual. The act may be done while co-habitating with the individual or not.
Crime of Adultery
The South Carolina Code considers spousal cheating, or adultery, as a crime punishable by a fine between $100 to $500. Courts also have the option of adding a jail time sentence of no less than six months but no more than a year.
Grounds for Divorce
South Carolina grants divorces on a fault or no-fault basis. Fault-based divorces place blame on one of the parties and may have various legal repercussions. Adultery, for example, provides a judge the necessary grounds to grant a fault-based divorce by placing blame on the cheating spouse. Such blame may affect the cheating spouse's child custody rights, ability to receive alimony and the right to certain property. South Carolina has five grounds for divorce: adultery, habitual drinking, physical cruelty, desertion and separation for a period of at least one year.
Burden of Proof
The South Carolina judicial system recognizes the difficulty in attempting to prove adultery, especially since sexual intercourse is a very private matter. Therefore, judges will grant a divorce if there is proof of sexual intimacy or that the accused spouse had the inclination and opportunity to commit the crime. Such proof may include the use of circumstantial evidence. Evidence can include public displays of affection, love letters, travel plans or continuous communication.
Denial of Divorce
Judges will not grant a fault-based divorce under certain conditions, even if adultery is proven. For instance, if both spouses are guilty of adultery, a divorce will not be granted. Such mutual guilt is referred to as recrimination, a tactic used to counter adultery charges. Judges will also deny a decree of divorce for couples who have reconciled. Reconciliation occurs when both spouses resume their relationship and reside together again.