Divorce raises a host of issues both emotional and financial. One question people often have concerns alimony – whether one former spouse will be ordered to pay continued support to the other once their divorce is finalized. Alimony is available to either spouse depending on the circumstances. Under South Carolina’s divorce law, any alimony award, including its amount and duration, is at the judge’s discretion.
Factors affecting an alimony award
While alimony remains subject to the judge’s discretion, the statute describes a list of factors for the judge to consider in making this determination. These factors include:
- How long the marriage lasted, as well as the ages of both spouses at the time of the marriage and at the divorce;
- The spouses’ physical and emotional condition;
- Each spouse’s education level, coupled with each’s need for further education or training to achieve his or her full earning potential;
- Each spouse’s employment history and potential income level;
- The standard of living during the marriage;
- Each spouse’s current and reasonably anticipated earnings;
- Each spouse’s current and reasonably anticipated needs and expenses;
- Each spouse’s marital and nonmarital property, including property awarded or apportioned in the divorce action;
- Child custody;
- Marital misconduct;
- The tax consequences to each spouse as a result of any support award;
- Whether either spouse has a previously-existing support obligation; and
- Any other factor the court may consider relevant.
The majority of divorces in South Carolina are no-fault, and while the existence of fault is a factor for the judge to consider, with one exception fault will not prevent an alimony award. While the statute does not require alimony in any particular case, it forbids an award to an adulterous spouse.
South Carolina recognizes four different types of alimony:
A periodic award is paid out over time for a duration specified by the court. It may be temporary or permanent. This type of alimony obligation ends when either spouse dies, or when the recipient remarries or cohabits with another. Even when the award is permanent, the paying spouse can request a modification in the future because of substantially changed circumstances. For example, the court might modify an award if the payor loses a job, or if the recipient obtains a job with increased income.
Lump sum alimony
The court can award alimony as a lump sum, to be paid all at once, or in installments. This type of obligation terminates at either spouse’s death, but not in the case of remarriage, cohabitation, or changed circumstances.
This award is a short term obligation, designed to provide the recipient with support while he or she attends school or a training program to acquire the skills needed to become self-supporting.
Reimbursement alimony is awarded based upon circumstances or events occurring during the marriage, where the court deems it appropriate to reimburse the recipient spouse from the future earnings of the paying spouse. This type of alimony might be appropriate, for instance, if one spouse worked to support the family while the other earned a degree.
In general, alimony payments are taxed as income to the recipient spouse, and are deductible from the paying spouse’s income. In contrast, child support is not taxable to the recipient and may not be deducted by the payor.
Contact an experienced Greenville family lawyer
Whether there should be ongoing support between former spouses can be one of the most hotly contested issues in a divorce. Robert Clark is a knowledgeable family law attorney with the ability and experience to represent your best interests in a difficult time. If you or someone you know has a question about divorce, alimony, or any other family law issue in Greenville, please contact us to schedule a consultation.