The subject of alimony payments is a highly contentious one in many divorce proceedings. It can be difficult to understand all of the factors that go into determining the type and amount of your alimony payments will be. Working with experienced divorce lawyers can help you see the different possibilities for alimony and prepare for them as best as possible for your particular case.
Our dedicated Greenville alimony attorney has experience dealing with alimony cases as well as a range of other family law matters. Going through a divorce can be an enormously challenging time, but it isn’t something you have to handle on your own. Contact one of our talented divorce lawyers in Greenville for answers to all of your questions regarding the divorce process and alimony. Call us today or schedule your appointment online for a free initial consultation for your case!
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What Is Spousal Support, Alimony, and Spousal Maintenance?
Alimony. Spousal Support. Spousal Maintenance. You may hear all of these terms from different people as you navigate the divorce process. This can be confusing for many who have limited exposure to divorce law, and you will likely wonder what each term means and how they relate to one another. The good news is that this is very simple, they are all simply different names for the same thing: court-ordered payments from one spouse to the other following a separation or divorce.
These payments are intended to minimize the financial impact a divorce can have on the spouse with lower earning potential. As such, alimony payments may be required from either party in a divorce and can be issued in one of several different structures depending on the judgment of the court. The different types of alimony that are awarded in South Carolina include:
- Permanent Periodic Alimony – This is the most common type of alimony assigned in South Carolina divorce cases. It is typically paid on a regular interval and has a set amount that is to be paid in this time frame. This type of alimony can usually be modified following the initial ruling under certain circumstances unless otherwise noted in the agreement. Permanent periodic alimony will typically be set to end in the event of any of the following:
- The death of either spouse
- The remarriage of the spouse that receives payments
- The cohabitation of the spouse that receives payments with a romantic partner for a length of 90 or more days
- Lump-Sum Alimony – This type of alimony sets a single specific total that is to be paid out either all at once or with regular, recurring payments over a particular period of time. Once the total to be paid out has been established it will not be modified regardless of the marital status of the supported spouse or changes in circumstances of either party.
- Rehabilitative Alimony – This type of alimony is typically awarded in South Carolina when the marriage was particularly short, or the supported spouse can reach an appropriate level of self-sufficiency within a set time frame. It will be a fixed amount, to be paid in a lump sum or over several installments but has more flexibility than the Lump-Sum alimony. Importantly, it will end with the remarriage or cohabitation of the spouse receiving support or the death of either spouse. Also worth noting is that this type of alimony order can be modified based on changes in circumstances for either the supported spouse or the spouse tasked with making payments.
- Reimbursement Alimony – This type of alimony is awarded when the court determines that compensatory payments are due to one spouse as a result of circumstances that took place during the marriage. This will typically include investments into the other spouse’s future such as educational benefits or job training and qualifications. Note that the investment is not required to be financial in nature, as time put into supporting your spouse’s professional development can also be factored in here. Reimbursement alimony in South Carolina is established as a set amount to be paid either as a lump sum or in periodic installments. It may be terminated on the death of either spouse or the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the supported spouse. It is not, however modifiable based on a change in circumstances of either party.
How Is Alimony Determined?
Alimony payments, both the amount to be paid and the duration that payments will last, are established at the discretion of the court in South Carolina and set as part of the divorce process. Importantly, unlike child support payments there are no formal alimony guidelines for the court to follow when determining payments. There are, however, a number of different factors that are weighed when determining alimony payments in a divorce case, including:
- The finances of each spouse
- The ability of each spouse to be financially independent following the divorce
- Child custody arrangements
- Child support payments
- The earning potential of each spouse
- Marketable skills of each spouse
Related Content: Questions to Ask a Divorce Lawyer in South Carolina
The primary purpose of South Carolina alimony payments is to maintain the standard of living that was established during the marriage. As a result, the length of time that alimony will be paid for is in part determined by the amount of time that would be needed to obtain a level of education or job training that would allow the supported spouse to become self-sufficient. The ability of the paying spouse to meet alimony obligations is also an important factor in establishing an alimony order.
Child custody agreements and child support payment schedules are also heavily considered when establishing alimony payments. A spouse with sole custody of a child who, due to age or medical condition, requires a level of support that makes it difficult for the parent to fully care for them will have a strong case for receiving alimony payments.
Many other factors may be considered by the court in determining alimony payment amounts and timelines. These factors may be financial or social in nature and can have a significant impact on the final determination. If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on the amount and structure of your alimony payments then the judge presiding over your case will award it as they see fit when ruling over your case.
Working with a lawyer with extensive experience in divorce cases and particularly alimony issues can help you prepare for what your alimony structure could be and will give you a leg up in negotiating an agreement with your spouse before the judge makes their ruling.
How Much Alimony Will I Have to Pay?
South Carolina law considers alimony to be a replacement for the level of support a spouse was given in marriage. This can make it difficult to determine the amount of alimony to be paid and, as a result, there is no specific formula to be used and in fact, there is no set of formal guidelines used to base alimony decisions. An experienced attorney can use their knowledge of cases similar to your own in order to help you determine your alimony exposure and gauge how much you may be required to pay.
While there may not be a set method for establishing alimony payments, some of the most common factors considered by the court include:
- The length of the marriage
- The age of each spouse
- Educational and vocational backgrounds
- The typical standard of living during the marriage
- Current expenses vs income
- The earning potential of each spouse
- The individual wealth of each spouse
- Child custody agreements
- Prior alimony payments from past marriages
- Misconduct during the marriage
When Can I Stop Paying Alimony?
The length of your alimony term will depend on the ruling of the judge presiding over your case. They will review the facts surrounding your particular situation when determining how long you will be required to make alimony payments. A commonly used rule of thumb offers 1 year of alimony payments for every 3 years of marriage, but this is certainly not guaranteed to be used.
FAQ: How is property divided after a divorce in South Carolina?
The length of time assigned to you is not necessarily set in stone either, you may be able to have your alimony order adjusted based on unexpected financial issues, changing conditions on the part of the supported spouse, and more. Ask an experienced family lawyer to look over your case, they may be able to offer some idea of when you will stop paying alimony.
Contact an Experienced Greenville Alimony Attorney Today!
Divorce law can be difficult to understand for anyone who is not regularly exposed to it. Combining this with the fact that much of the process surrounding establishing alimony payments is subjective and up to the discretion of the judge assigned to your case can make it very difficult for the average person to know what their alimony situation might look like. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help you get a better grasp on your situation and understand the wide range of issues that can come into play while establishing alimony payments.
If you are currently going through a divorce or are considering beginning the divorce process in South Carolina, be aware that alimony will most likely be ordered as part of your case. Working with a skilled and dedicated divorce lawyer from Greenville Family Attorneys will help you understand all of the options available to you. Call today to schedule a free comprehensive consultation for your case.