Alimony in SC is often seen as a substitute for the support the higher-earning spouse gives their spouse during marriage. As such, it is meant to place the lower-earning spouse, as nearly as possible, in a position of financial independence.
Rather than enrich the recipient spouse, alimony should help them maintain the living standard established during their marriage. Read on to find out how courts in South Carolina calculate alimony and circumstances in which support may be modified or terminated.
How To Calculate Alimony in SC
There is no formula for calculating how much spousal support the higher-earning spouse should pay towards the support of their spouse or ex-spouse. Instead, SC divorce laws require that courts consider a list of factors to determine the appropriate alimony amount and duration.
– Amount of Alimony
A court will consider the factors below while determining how much spousal support one spouse should pay to the other. You would expect more alimony to be paid in cases where one spouse has a high-paying job while the other spends most time at home taking care of the children.
These factors include:
- The marriage’s duration.
- Both parties’ ages.
- The emotional and physical condition of each spouse.
- Educational background, employment history, and earning potential of both parties.
- The standards of living established by the spouses throughout their marriage.
- Current and expected incomes and reasonable expenses.
- Marital and separate property of each party.
- Custody of children and the possibility that one parent may have limited chances to work outside their home due to childcare responsibilities.
- Alimony or child support obligation from a prior marriage.
- Marital fault or misconduct.
- Other factors the court deems relevant.
Similarly, a significant amount of alimony would be ordered for marriages that lasted ten or more years, compared to shorter marriages. In some cases, a judge may not even order alimony for short-term marriages.
Obligation to pay child support or alimony from a previous marriage also influences the amount of alimony. If the higher-earning spouse has already been ordered to pay child support, the judge will likely reduce the amount of alimony to be paid by that spouse.
– Duration of Alimony
Courts often consider whether one spouse gave up their opportunity for education or a job to allow the other spouse to get an education or advance their career. If that is the case, the court orders alimony for a duration it deems necessary for the dependent spouse to acquire the education or skills necessary to get a job and become self-supporting.
Going by South Carolina divorce laws, the length of the marriage also influences the duration of alimony. Usually, support payments will last longer in long-term marriages than in shorter ones.
How To Pay Spousal Support South Carolina
A payor spouse is expected to pay spousal support periodically or make a lump-sum payment if they have the financial power. In most cases, South Carolina courts will order payor spouses to make periodic payments as these are more convenient.
– Periodic Alimony Payments
If the payor spouse has a regular and guaranteed paycheck, the court will likely order them to make payments on a recurring basis. This could be monthly or quarterly.
An order for periodic payment could be coupled with an income withholding order. This is an order that requires the payor spouse’s employer to withhold a part of their paycheck and send it straight to the recipient spouse.
Spouses who make periodic payments may be affected by modification of alimony – the court can order them to pay more if there is a reason to do so.
– Lump-Sum Payment
Lump-sum alimony is also referred to as alimony in gross. It is a fixed payment made by the payor spouse following a court order. The payor spouse is expected to pay the ordered amount once or in installments. That means lump sum alimony can’t be modified even with a future change in circumstances.
Lump-sum alimony is a good option for individuals who have the financial ability to make a one-time payment and wish to avoid periodic payments. If lump sum alimony is paid in installments, it can be modified or terminated if the supported spouse dies.
– Enforcing Support Payments
If you haven’t received alimony for some time, you can ask the court to help you enforce payment. Courts take failure to pay ordered alimony seriously and tend to take stern action on payor spouses who are found guilty of violating those orders.
Courts in South Carolina have various ways of forcing compliance. Some of those include issuing an income withholding order, which allows an employer to automatically deduct payments from a paycheck and send them directly to the supported spouse.
A court can also find the payor spouse in contempt if they don’t make payments as ordered. Further, the court may issue fines or even a jail term if the payor spouse doesn’t pay overdue alimony.
How To Avoid Paying Alimony in SC
The best shot at discontinuing or avoiding alimony payments is filing a petition to modify or terminate spousal support. While courts don’t often grant these wishes, you may stand a chance if you prove that there has been significant changes or shifts in circumstances since the last order.
– Modification of Alimony
If alimony is agreed upon by spouses through a settlement agreement, any attempt to modify it must be in line with the agreement. Otherwise, SC alimony laws allow for the upward or downward adjustment of alimony.
Modification of alimony in South Carolina is strictly based on a significant change of circumstances. If the recipient spouse gets a job and starts to receive a significant income, the payor spouse could seek a reduction of alimony payments.
Similarly, the recipient spouse may request an increase in alimony if they incur unexpected medical expenses. However, a judge will determine whether the payor spouse has the ability to pay more than they are obligated to.
A decrease in income by the supporting spouse due to retirement or involuntary job loss can also be a basis for alimony reduction. Provided the drop in income is due to unavoidable circumstances, the court will likely approve an alimony reduction.
A judge will likely deny a request for alimony reduction if they believe that the payor spouse engineered the income drop to create a reason for alimony reduction.
– Termination of Alimony
Courts in South Carolina can terminate alimony for various reasons. Like modification of alimony, termination requires that the requesting spouse proves that there is a material change in circumstances for either spouse.
Usually, the remarriage of the recipient is a valid reason for the court to consider alimony termination. This is because the supported spouse gets financial support from their new spouse, making it unjust to continue getting alimony from their ex-spouse.
In South Carolina, cohabitation and retirement could also be valid grounds for seeking termination of alimony. Particularly, S.C. Code § 20-3-170 states that retirement by the payor spouse is a valid reason to warrant a court hearing to determine whether there has been a significant change in circumstances.
– What Are the Types of Alimony in South Carolina?
The commonest types of alimony in South Carolina are temporary, permanent, periodic, rehabilitative, reimbursement, and separate maintenance. When a South Carolina spouse requests alimony, the court decides which of these is appropriate by considering the state and circumstances of each spouse.
Temporary alimony is also referred to as alimony pendente lite. It is awarded during the divorce process, before the final divorce decree. It is appropriate if the requesting spouse needs financial support while the divorce is pending in court.
Periodic alimony is meant to be short-term and usually lasts until the recipient spouse becomes financially independent. It is paid on a recurring basis (usually monthly) and is intended to help the supported spouse get education or job training that would lead to employment and financial independence.
Reimbursement alimony refers to alimony that is meant to reimburse one spouse for the expenses incurred while supporting the other’s education, career, or earning ability.
For instance, a spouse who worked full-time to fund the other’s college education may request reimbursement alimony upon divorce. A judge may order reimbursement alimony to be paid once or in installments over time.
– What is Rehabilitive Alimony in South Carolina?
Rehabilitative alimony is the commonest type of alimony after spouses divorce in South Carolina. Rehabilitative alimony offers the recipient spouse financial assistance as they acquire job skills or get the education necessary to reenter the job market.
A judge determines the duration necessary for such a spouse to gain the skills necessary to reenter the workforce. The recipient spouse must also demonstrate effort in gaining the skills needed to become employable.
– Does South Carolina Have Permanent Alimony?
Yes, South Carolina has a permanent alimony, that is long-term alimony that may be ordered for an indefinite period by the court. It is mostly awarded if the court determines that the supported spouse may not achieve financial independence. This could be the case if the supported spouse has a physical or mental disability, is of advanced age, or has been out of the job market for too long.
– Does Cohabitation Affect Alimony in South Carolina?
Yes. The payor spouse can request a review of alimony if the recipient spouse lives with another party in a romantic, marriage-like relationship for at least 90 consecutive days. If the court establishes that there has been continued cohabitation, alimony could be modified or terminated.
In South Carolina, a judge may award any of the various types of alimony available in the state, depending on a couple’s situation. Generally, courts have a great deal of discretion in deciding the amount and duration of alimony. In this article, we’ve discussed the calculation and payment of alimony. Here’s a summary of the discussion:
- Courts consider a couple of factors to determine whether a spouse is eligible for alimony and to calculate the total and duration of support.
- Besides the usual types of alimony, spouses may also request rehabilitative and reimbursement alimony during a divorce.
- Alimony can be modified or terminated if the requesting spouse can show a significant change in circumstances for either spouse.
- Continued cohabitation and retirement are often considered valid reasons for possible modification or termination of spousal support.
Recently, there have been changes to alimony laws in SC, especially those pertaining to retirement. Still, courts retain their power in making decisions regarding alimony. If you’re not positive about what to expect in your divorce or separation case, it is best that you work with a divorce lawyer.