South Carolina Alimony Reform

This blog has already examined how alimony is awarded in a South Carolina divorce. One of the most controversial aspects of the divorce statute’s alimony provisions is the court’s discretion to award permanent alimony – that is, an alimony obligation that has no set end date, but continues until the recipient spouse dies or is remarried. Now, spurred on by an advocacy group known as South Carolina Alimony Reform, the state House is considering a bill to amend the law regarding alimony awards.


In June 2015, the legislature passed a joint resolution to create a study committee to reform alimony. The committee was directed to examine essentially all aspects of alimony awards and report to the General Assembly regarding its findings and recommendations. In March 2016, the Post and Courier of Charleston reports that the House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted in favor of sending bill H-4029 to the full House for consideration.


The Proposed Alimony Reforms


The bill proposes to amend the alimony law to create a presumption for an award of lump-sum or reimbursement alimony, rather than permanent periodic or rehabilitative alimony payments. The changes focus on what is referred to as “transitional alimony,” which would be payable by one spouse to the other for a set period of time, and eliminate the court’s authority to award alimony permanently. Transitional alimony would be available for an economically-disadvantaged spouse who needs financial assistance to adjust to the economic consequences of the divorce. Transitional alimony differs from rehabilitative alimony in that the recipient spouse is currently able to be self-supporting but needs financial help to establish and maintain a household without the other spouse’s income.


Current law permits alimony to be terminated when the recipient spouse continuously cohabits with another in a romantic relationship for more than 90 consecutive days. The new bill removes the 90-day period for cohabitation, making alimony terminable when the recipient spouse resides with anyone in a romantic relationship for any period of time.


Additionally, for marriages of less than 10 years, the court would be required to consider alternate forms of alimony before awarding periodic alimony, and to make findings as to why alternate forms are not awarded. Finally, when considering whether alimony should be modified upon the supporting spouse’s retirement, the bill specifies that whether the supported spouse receives Social Security as a result of the supporting spouse’s benefits is a relevant factor.


Arguments for and Against the Reforms


As reported in the Post and Courier, members of South Carolina Alimony Reform argue that permanent alimony is “involuntary servitude and tantamount to slavery.” On the other side, family lawyers argue that the reform movement is largely an attack on women, in light of the fact that the majority of former spouses paying permanent alimony are men.


Consult a Greenville family lawyer


Whether or not the proposed reforms pass, alimony will remain a contentious issue in divorce proceedings. If you or your spouse are contemplating divorce, your first step should be to consult an experienced South Carolina family lawyer. Greenville, SC divorce attorney Robert Clark of Greenville Family Law focuses on compassionate representation of clients in all family court matters. Contact Robert for a consultation today.

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