Alimony (sometimes referred to as spousal support) is the money that a supporting spouse pays to a dependent spouse, temporarily or permanently, once the parties are no longer living together. Spouses may agree to alimony, or it may be awarded by the Court. South Carolina courts may also award temporary spousal support to dependent spouses on a short-term basis, in order to meet the immediate needs of that spouse during the separation period.
South Carolina Family court judges use many factors to determine an award of alimony. The most important factors are typically the duration of the marriage; the lifestyle of the parties during the marriage; the earnings and earning capacity of both parties at the time of separation; the reasonable expenses of the parties; the age and health of the parties at separation; whether caring for children limits one party’s earning abilities; and, fault in the dissolution of the marriage. South Carolina law also forbids the awarding of alimony when the supported spouse has committed adultery.
In South Carolina, the court has the discretion to make any alimony order that is appropriate, considering the couple’s circumstances. South Carolina law provides for several different types of alimony:
- Permanent Periodic Alimony: The supporting spouse must make ongoing alimony payments (usually paid monthly or per pay period), until either spouse dies, or until the supporting spouse remarries, or cohabits for ninety days or more. This form of alimony is subject to modification, upon showing a substantial change in circumstances.
- Lump Sum Alimony: Lump sum alimony is a set amount of support. The court determines the total amount of the support at the time the order is made, and that amount is paid in one payment or in a few installments. This form of alimony is not subject to modification based on remarriage or change in circumstances. The typical circumstance in which this form of alimony is awarded is when the supporting spouse demonstrates an intent and ability to disobey any permanent periodic alimony.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to help a spouse who’s been out of the workforce, or for some other reason doesn’t have the ability to earn much income. This alimony allows that spouse to attend school or a training program in order to improve job skills and earn more money. The court will determine the total amount of support when the order is made, to be paid in one payment or, more commonly, in installments over time.
- Reimbursement Alimony: This alimony compensates a spouse for support, whether financial or personal, that allowed the other spouse to get training or education that contributed to his or her earning capacity. This may be awarded to a spouse who helped put the other spouse through school or establish a business, only to have the supporting spouse end the marriage before his or her earnings are higher due to the education or business success.
- Separate Maintenance and Support: The court may order separate maintenance and support when the spouses are not asking for a divorce but are no longer living together. This type of support is paid on a regular basis, usually monthly. The court may modify the order if circumstances change.
- Other: The court is authorized to order any form of spousal support, under conditions that the Court deems just and appropriate under the circumstances of the case. The Family Court judge may also grant more than one form of spousal support.