Alimony in South Carolina Divorce Cases
“Alimony” refers to payments made by one spouse to another after they divorce or during the divorce process. It differs from child support. The purpose of alimony is to help support a financially dependent or disadvantaged spouse following a separation. It can be awarded temporarily for a set time or amount of money or continue indefinitely.
Determining Alimony in a South Carolina Divorce
Unlike calculating South Carolina child support, calculating the type and amount of alimony to award is up to the Family Court judge’s discretion. The court considers numerous factors, including:
- The duration of the marriage.
- Each spouse’s age at the time of the marriage and divorce.
- Each spouse’s physical and emotional condition.
- Each spouse’s educational background and any need for additional training or education to achieve their income potential.
- Each spouse’s employment history and earning potential.
- The marital standard of living.
- The current and anticipated earnings of both spouses.
- The current and anticipated expenses and needs of each spouse.
- Marital and nonmarital property awards to each spouse during the divorce.
- Whether either spouse is the custodial parent to a child whose condition or circumstances make it difficult for the parent to seek work outside of the home or full-time work.
- Marital misconduct or fault.
- Tax consequences to each spouse.
- Whether either spouse is court-ordered to support another spouse or a child.
- Any other factors the court considers relevant. (S.C. Code Ann. § 20-3-130 (C)).
Adultery is a complete bar to receiving alimony in South Carolina, even if every other factor favors its award. Alimony will be denied to a spouse who engages in extra-marital relations or cohabitation (residing with another person in a romantic relationship) before the parties enter a formal written property or marital settlement agreement or permanent order of separate maintenance and support. (S.C. Code Ann. §20-3-130 (A))
Types of Alimony Available in a South Carolina Divorce
The amount and type of alimony are memorialized in the order that finalizes a couple’s divorce. There are four different types of post-divorce alimony.
Periodic alimony: This type of alimony is the most common. The more well-off spouse makes regular payments to the other spouse until the supported spouse remarries or continuously cohabitates with a new partner or the death of either spouse. Either spouse may petition the court to modify this award if there is a change in circumstances (such as losing a job, serious illness, etc.). It is often called “permanent” alimony because it continues indefinitely until death or remarriage.
Lump-sum alimony: The court may award a specified dollar amount of alimony, which can be paid in one or more lump-sum payments. The obligation is satisfied only when the paying spouse has paid the full amount. A court cannot modify the award after the order is entered, even if there is a substantial change of circumstances, but the obligation terminates if the supported spouse dies.
Rehabilitative alimony: Rehabilitative alimony is like lump-sum alimony earmarked for a specific purpose. It is a set amount paid either all at once or in installments. Generally, it helps the supported spouse complete educational or job training to increase their income potential. It is often awarded when the supported spouse gives up their educational and career opportunities during the marriage. It can be modified if the supported spouse marries or cohabitates, either spouse dies, a specific event occurs that the parties agreed would end the payments (e.g., completion of a training program or degree), or there are “unforeseen events frustrating the good faith efforts of the supported spouse to become self-supporting or the ability of the supporting spouse to pay the rehabilitative alimony.”
Determining what is fair and equitable in a South Carolina divorce can be complicated and emotionally charged. If you are considering a divorce, our experienced, compassionate attorneys can help. We will advise you of your rights, evaluate your options, and help you decide the right path for you, your spouse, and your family. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.