SC: Alimony & Spousal Support

The court considers many aspects when deciding on alimony payments, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The ages of the parties
  • Physical and mental health
  • Education and work experience
  • The earning potential of each spouse
  • Any need for retraining orders
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • Child custody and visitation schedule
  • Existing court obligations
  • Any marital misconduct

In South Carolina, there is more than one form of alimony. There is temporary alimony while a case is pending (between filing the lawsuit and a final trial), which is often called spousal support. There is also lump sum alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, and periodic/permanent alimony. The existence of adultery committed by the supported spouse, will bar an alimony award to that spouse.

Long term, more permanent alimony terminates when the paying or receiving spouse dies, or when the receiving spouse remarries or cohabitates with a romantic partner. Periodic alimony can be modified or terminated based on a change in circumstances. Often, people have heard that they can receive alimony until they die; however, that is not always the case and you should consult when an attorney about the specifics of your case.

Alimony Terms & Length

An alimony term and amount can be complicated and is almost always a source of disagreement between spouses. Alimony payments can continue for a long time and are paid in addition to child support and property settlement awards. Further, once a person is subject to an order, circumstances can arise that will entitle him or her to seek a review by a judge, who could change or end the award.

When parties are separated and not yet divorced, it is possible to ask that a spouse continue to provide medical insurance or other services during the separation period as spousal support. While some states have guidelines for alimony, South Carolina does not. There are some people who have developed a “calculator” that is useful when attempting to ensure that each household has a similar amount of disposable income; however, when setting alimony awards, a family court judge has broad discretion and does not have the benefit of a set of calculated guidelines.  Recent changes in the tax codes have also impacted alimony awards.

The best way to prepare to seek or defend an alimony award is to take time to create a budget that outlines your needs and expenses as well as your ability to earn income.  This will help an attorney answer questions about alimony.