How to Determine Alimony in SC

By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.

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To prepare for a divorce, it is important for both parties to have an understanding of the factors a court will consider in determining whether to award alimony and the types and amounts to request. In South Carolina, the length of the marriage, the existence of any marital misconduct, the parties' earning capacity, and the physical and mental health of both parties will be considered in determining the length, type and amount of an order for alimony.

Alimony Overview

In South Carolina, spousal support, also known as alimony, is the amount of money one spouse may be ordered to pay to the other spouse following a divorce. Courts generally award alimony to allow the recipient to maintain a lifestyle similar to that enjoyed during the marriage. Alimony is not automatic and will not be ordered in every case. Instead, the court considers a variety of factors and has broad discretion in determining how much alimony is practicable in each particular situation.

Types of Alimony

Depending on the circumstances of each specific case, South Carolina courts may award periodic alimony, lump sum alimony, rehabilitative alimony or reimbursement alimony. One spouse may pay periodic alimony, where specified amounts are submitted on an ongoing basis. Lump sum alimony requires a finite payment by one spouse, often made in a single payment, but can also be paid in multiple payments over a specified period of time. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to help a spouse transition back to single life by providing payments for education or job training. The court may also award reimbursement alimony where one spouse is repaid for contributions she made to increase the earning capacity of the other spouse, such as working while her spouse attended school.

Termination and Modification

In South Carolina, certain events may terminate alimony or permit modification of the amount owed. Permanent alimony, or periodic alimony, continues until either spouse dies or until the recipient spouse remarries. In some cases, periodic alimony may be terminated if the recipient spouse enters into a romantic relationship or cohabits with another person. Generally, all types of alimony terminate with the death of either party, and either party may request modification if circumstances change.

Alimony Factors

In determining whether or not to award alimony, and if so, how much, the court will consider a number of factors surrounding the marriage and the financial resources of each party. Such factors may include the duration of the marriage, the living standards of the parties during the marriage, the income potential of each spouse and the educational and work backgrounds of each party. South Carolina courts may also take into account fault or marital misconduct when determining alimony awards. A court has discretion to completely bar alimony when the spouse requesting support has committed adultery.