Many people find the South Carolina alimony law to be particularly confusing. And, it’s easy to understand why. There are six types of alimony in South Carolina.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is money that one spouse is ordered to pay for the support of the other spouse when they are no longer living together. A South Carolina family law judge can order that the alimony be paid: (a) during the divorce process, which is commonly known as temporary alimony or maintenance and support; (b) after the divorce becomes final, which is called permanent alimony; or (c) both.
What Is the Most Common Type of South Carolina Alimony?
South Carolina divorce judges are most likely to order the payment of permanent periodic alimony. If this happens in your divorce case, the supporting spouse will have to make ongoing payments (usually every month) to the supported spouse for a lengthy period of time. It is called permanent alimony because it typically lasts for a lifetime.
Your divorce judge can later increase or decrease the amount of permanent alimony if one or both of you has a significant change in circumstances. Since the amount of permanent alimony depends on multiple factors, you should consult an experienced Mt. Pleasant family law attorney if alimony may be an issue in your divorce case.
Do I Have to Pay Alimony after My Spouse Becomes Self-Supporting?
Maybe. It will depend on the type of alimony that is ordered. If your divorce judge orders a second type of alimony, which is called rehabilitative alimony, your obligation to pay alimony will not last your entire lifetime. In fact, the rehabilitative alimony may end in a relatively short period of time.
Family law judges typically order rehabilitative alimony to allow the supported spouse to get enough education or training to become self-supporting. This type of South Carolina alimony is typically awarded when: (a) the marriage had a shorter duration; (b) one of the parties did not work during the marriage; and (c) the supported spouse can become fully employed if given alimony for enough time to acquire employable skills.
Can You Get Reimbursed for What You Put into Your Marriage?
Yes in many situations. A wife or husband often works to support a spouse, who is getting an education or starting up a business. Both of them expect to have a bright financial future as a consequence. Then, when a professional license is obtained or a business starts making a profit, the supported spouse decides to seek a divorce. The supporting spouse may feel like he or she has been used and lost the opportunity for a better life.
In that situation, a South Carolina divorce court may award a third type of alimony, which is commonly known as reimbursement alimony. This type of alimony reimburses the sacrificing spouse for what he or she expected to receive financially from the spouse’s new business or education/license.
Can You Get a Lump Sum Payment of Alimony?
Yes. South Carolina divorce law permits your family court judge to order a fourth type of alimony, which is lump sum alimony. Your judge may order lump sum alimony if the parties agree to it or if special circumstances exist. For example, if the paying spouse has already left South Carolina, the divorce judge may order a lump sum payment of a definite, fixed amount of alimony. Armed with a judgment for the lump sum alimony, the supported spouse can then collect his or her alimony by selling the real estate or other property of the absent spouse.
CAN YOU GET ALIMONY WHILE YOU ARE WAITING THE ONE-YEAR PERIOD FOR A NO-FAULT DIVORCE?
Yes. A South Carolina family law court can order the payment of a fifth type of alimony, which is called separate maintenance and support. Judges understand that waiting one-year to get a no-fault divorce can impose a serious financial hardship, particularly if one party earns significantly more than the other. In such circumstances, your divorce judge may award separate maintenance and support alimony to be paid monthly until your spouse and you are divorced.
Can Your Divorce Judge Award Any Other Type of Alimony?
Yes. The South Carolina alimony law gives family law judges a lot of flexibility in deciding what to do. Under the sixth type of alimony, your divorce judge could decide that your situation does not fit neatly into one of five types of alimony, which are described above. Instead of one type of alimony, your judge may combine periodic, rehabilitative, reimbursement, and/or lump sum alimony in a packaged deal.
What Should You Do?
Since there are so many types of alimony and since they could have such a significant impact on your financial future, you should consult with an experienced South Carolina attorney before you do anything else. If you live in Charleston, Goose Creek, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, West Ashley, or another Low Country community, please call me now. I will be glad to answer any other questions that you may have about South Carolina alimony.