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Anatomy of divorce In S.C.

First lady Jenny Sanford filed Friday for divorce from Gov. Mark Sanford. Here's what's next, according to Kermit King, a longtime Columbia divorce attorney.


In divorce papers filed Friday in Charleston County, first lady Jenny Sanford is seeking a divorce from Gov. Mark Sanford on the grounds of adultery.

The papers do not give any details on custody of the couple's four children, property or money.

Under state law, a person can seek a divorce for one of five reasons: adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, desertion for a period of a year, or the "no fault" ground, which requires the two parties to have lived apart for more than one year.

Gov. Sanford has 30 days to respond to his wife's claims.

In his response, Mark Sanford could make his own allegations against his wife.

"He could file a pleading that not only answers what she says but also makes counterclaims," King said.


Mark and Jenny Sanford, with help from their attorneys, must also decide: how to divide any property they jointly own, who gets custody of their four sons, a visitation schedule for the parent who does not have primary custody, and possibly alimony payments.

If the couple has a premarital agreement, it will also be taken into consideration.

State law says two months must pass before a hearing is held during which a family court judge signs off on the couple's decision. But often, it takes couples much longer than two months to decide these matters.

Jenny Sanford is eligible for alimony if she chooses to seek it, King said. Mark Sanford, if he does not contest his guilt as an adulterer, is not.

Because the four children are already living with their mother, Jenny Sanford is likely to get custody, King predicts.

"Even in this age of supposed gender equality, I generally think the dice are heavily loaded toward the mother," he said.


Assuming the Sanfords can reach agreement on money, property and their children, they'll appear briefly before a judge who will sign off on their settlement and, ultimately, the divorce.

If the two are unable to reach an agreement, a family court makes the decisions.