How is alimony calculated and what are the different types of alimony in SC? 

If you are considering divorce after 20 years of marriage, but your spouse was the primary breadwinner in the family, does that mean you will be destitute now?

What if you gave up your opportunities for education and a career to support your spouse through school or to allow your spouse to advance in their job while you raised the children and cared for the home? 

How will you earn a living now that you have no college degree or resume? If you dare to leave the marriage, are you now destined for the poorhouse as they continue to enjoy a higher standard of living?

Alimony Payments in South Carolina

These are just some of the problems that alimony payments are designed to solve. Keep reading, and we will cover the basics of alimony, including the different types of alimony in SC and how the family court will calculate the amount of alimony that must be paid.

How is Alimony in SC Calculated?

There is no mathematical equation that judges use to calculate alimony in SC, and, unlike child support, there are no formal guidelines for calculating alimony. 

Whether alimony is even ordered and how much alimony is awarded is in the court’s discretion, although there are factors that the court can consider when making the decision.

No Alimony if You Commit Adultery

SC Code Section 20-3-130(A) says that no alimony will be awarded to a spouse who commits adultery, if the adultery happens before:

  • The signing of a written separation or settlement agreement or
  • The entry of a permanent order of separate support and maintenance.

What this means is that, if you intend to ask for alimony, you cannot date other people until after you have signed a settlement agreement or after the Court has issued its final order.

What Determines if You Get Alimony in SC?

When will the court order alimony? 

Some key questions that the court may ask include:

  • Do you need alimony to continue the standard of living that you had during your marriage?
  • How long were you married to your spouse?
  • Can your spouse afford to pay alimony without undue hardship?
  • Was the breakdown of the marriage caused by your spouse’s actions?

SC law also contains a list of factors that courts must consider when deciding whether to award alimony and how much.

What Factors Does the Court Consider?

Section 21-3-130(C) contains a list of factors that the court must consider “and give weight in such proportion as it finds appropriate” when deciding on an alimony award, including:

  • The length of the marriage and the ages of each spouse,
  • Each spouse’s physical and emotional health,
  • Each spouse’s education and whether one or the other needs additional education “in order to achieve that spouse’s income potential,”
  • Each spouse’s earning potential,
  • Their standard of living during the marriage,
  • Each spouse’s current and expected future income,
  • Each spouse’s current and expected future expenses and needs,
  • Property owned by each spouse,
  • Whether child custody will limit the custodial parent’s income,
  • Marital misconduct or fault of each spouse, whether or not it is alleged as grounds for divorce,
  • The tax consequences of each potential type of alimony,
  • Any support obligations from prior marriages, and
  • Any other factors that the court thinks are relevant.

Once the court has decided to award alimony, there are several types of alimony that the court can order depending on the circumstances.

Types of Alimony in SC

Section 21-3-130(B) authorizes five types of alimony, each designed to meet different needs in different types of situations.

1. Periodic Alimony

Periodic alimony is “normal” alimony. It is paid on a recurring basis and is ongoing until:

  • Remarriage of the supported spouse,
  • “Continued cohabitation” of the supported spouse,
  • The death of either spouse, or
  • It is modified by the court based on a change in circumstances.

2. Lump Sum Alimony

Lump sum alimony is a set amount of alimony that is paid all at once or in installments, and it cannot be terminated or modified in the future unless the supported spouse dies.

3. Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony, like lump sum alimony, is a set amount that must be paid all at once or in installments. It is modifiable, however, if:

  • The supported spouse remarries or continuously lives with someone,
  • Either spouse dies,
  • The parties have identified a specific event to end the payments (graduation from college, for example), 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.”

Rehabilitative alimony is intended to allow the supported spouse to complete school or job training to increase their income potential, and it may be appropriate in situations where the supported spouse has foregone their own educational and career opportunities during the marriage.

4. Reimbursement Alimony

Reimbursement alimony is a set amount that must be paid all at once or in installments, and it is intended to reimburse the supported spouse “based on circumstances or events that occurred during the marriage.” 

Reimbursement alimony can be terminated “on the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse” or if either spouse dies, but it cannot be modified later based on a change in circumstances.

5. Separate Support and Maintenance

An order for separate support and maintenance is exactly the same as “periodic alimony” (see above), except that it is intended to provide “separate maintenance and support” where the parties are not immediately seeking a divorce, but they are living separate and apart.

Questions About Alimony in SC?

If you are considering separation or divorce, or if you need help seeking alimony or seeking a modification of an existing alimony order, contact the divorce attorneys at Templeton, Mims & Ward at 843-285-5090 or click here to send us an email.

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