What to Know About Alimony in South Carolina
Alimony in South Carolina, otherwise known as spousal support, is one of the most challenging issues to resolve in any divorce case. Contrary to popular belief, alimony is not awarded to punish the paying spouse, but to help the receiving spouse maintain the same or similar standard of living to that enjoyed throughout the marriage if the marital estate is such that the standard can continue to be enjoyed. The law regarding alimony is ever evolving. The calculation of alimony is based upon many factors and is generally up to the judge’s discretion based upon those factors. It is crucial that you have a South Carolina Divorce Attorney advocate for your rights and protect your interests. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation. 803.252.4800
How Alimony in South Carolina is Calculated
The court will generally consider awarding alimony in South Carolina so the more financially secure spouse will pay alimony to the spouse that is less advantaged. Courts will consider many factors when making a determination of whether alimony should be awarded and, if so, how much alimony should be given. Those factors include the age of the parties, current income of both, health of both, work history and ability to earn his/her own income. The determination process can be very subjective as there is no particular formula to calculate alimony.
To make matters more complicated, there are several different types of alimony. South Carolina Code. Ann. § 20-3-130, lists all the types and the factors courts use to determine each each case.
Permanent Periodic Alimony
Permanent periodic alimony is the most common form of alimony in South Carolina divorce cases. It is typically awarded where the court finds it appropriate for one spouse to assist in the ongoing support of the other spouse. Generally, periodic alimony is a specified amount paid each week or month. It is usually paid until one of the following events occurs: either spouse dies, the supported spouse remarries, or the supported spouse cohabits with a romantic partner for a period of 90 days or more. Unless otherwise provided by agreement of the parties, periodic alimony can usually be reviewed and modified as circumstances dictate following divorce.
Lump Sum Alimony
Lump sum alimony is generally awarded when a spouse needs a fixed amount of financial support or the parties arranged a fixed support obligation. It is a finite total sum to be paid in one installment, or periodically over a period of time. The amount is fixed and cannot be modified, even if one spouse remarries or there is a substantial change in circumstances.
Rehabilitative alimony is usually awarded when the marriage is of a short duration or when the spouse can become self supportive through further education and training within the rehabilitative time frame. Rehabilitative alimony is a finite sum that can be paid in one installment or periodically. It terminates upon the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse, the death of either spouse, or the occurrence of a specific event in the future. It can also modifiable based upon unforeseen events that frustrate the good faith efforts of the supported spouse to become self-supporting or the ability of the supporting spouse to pay the rehabilitative alimony.
Reimbursement alimony is typically awarded when the court finds it necessary to reimburse the supported spouse from the future earnings of the payor spouse based upon circumstances or events that occurred throughout the marriage. One common example of reimbursement alimony is where one spouse invests in the supporting spouse’s education or business. The investments do not need to be of a financial nature. Reimbursement alimony often includes time and energy spent taking care of the children and household duties. Reimbursement alimony is a finite sum that can be paid in one installment or periodically. It is terminable on the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse, or upon the death of either spouse. It is not terminable or modifiable based upon changed circumstances in the future. This type of alimony is rarely seen in most courts.
Separate Maintenance and Support Alimony
When parties are not yet divorced, permanent periodic alimony is sometimes referred to as separate support and maintenance. It is typically awarded in circumstances when it is necessary to provide for the support of a spouse when the parties are living separately. Separate maintenance and support is paid periodically, but terminates upon the continued cohabitation of the supported spouse, upon the divorce of the parties, or upon the death of either spouse. It is also terminable and modifiable based upon changed circumstances in the future.
Factors Family Courts Consider to Determine the Type and Amount of Alimony in South Carolina
South Carolina Code. Ann. § 20-3-130(c) lists the factors courts use to determine each each case.
In making an award of alimony or separate maintenance and support, the court must consider and give weight in such proportion as it finds appropriate to all of the following factors:
the duration of the marriage together with the ages of the parties at the time of the marriage and at the time of the divorce or separate maintenance action between the parties;
the physical and emotional condition of each spouse;
the educational background of each spouse, together with need of each spouse for additional training or education in order to achieve that spouse’s income potential;
the employment history and earning potential of each spouse;
the standard of living established during the marriage;
the current and reasonably anticipated earnings of both spouses;
the current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of both spouses;
the marital and nonmarital properties of the parties, including those apportioned to him or her in the divorce or separate maintenance action;
custody of the children, particularly where conditions or circumstances render it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home, or where the employment must be of a limited nature;
marital misconduct or fault of either or both parties, whether or not used as a basis for a divorce or separate maintenance decree if the misconduct affects or has affected the economic circumstances of the parties, or contributed to the breakup of the marriage, except that no evidence of personal conduct which may otherwise be relevant and material for the purpose of this subsection may be considered with regard to this subsection if the conduct took place subsequent to the happening of the earliest of (a) the formal signing of a written property or marital settlement agreement or (b) entry of a permanent order of separate maintenance and support or of a permanent order approving a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties;
the tax consequences to each party as a result of the particular form of support awarded;
the existence and extent of any support obligation from a prior marriage or for any other reason of either party; and
such other factors the court considers relevant.
Modification and Termination
Most types of alimony in South Carolina are subject to being modified by showing a significant change of circumstances. The circumstances could have been anticipated or unknown by the parties at the time the alimony was awarded. Generally, the court will terminate alimony upon a showing of (a) the remarriage by the receiving spouse, (b) death of either the paying or receiving spouse, or (c) continued cohabitation by the receiving spouse with another person in a romantic relationship for a period of 90 or more consecutive days. The court may determine that continued cohabitation exists in periods less than 90 days if the receiving spouse and his or her lover periodically separate in order to circumvent the rule.
Consult a Divorce Lawyer Today
If you are concerned that you may be placed under an obligation to pay alimony, or if you are concerned that you will need alimony as a supported spouse, it is extremely important that you have competent representation. Do not risk going into family court without someone to advocate on your behalf. Our South Carolina Divorce Attorneys will ensure that your future is protected. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation.