Mar 21

How can you get alimony in SC?

Written by: Megan Dell


alimony in SCOne of the questions that is most searched on the internet is whether someone will have to pay, or is entitled to receive, alimony in SC. So, will you have to pay alimony? In a nutshell, it depends. An award of alimony is highly discretionary, meaning that — unlike child support — it is not generally based on any one factor or particular calculation, causing it to vary from case to case.

Justifications for Alimony in SC: Historical

First, let’s review the historical context alimony arose from. Long ago, by getting married, a husband took on a duty to financially provide for his wife. This duty did not disappear when their marriage ended (which seems fair because, at that time, only men could seek divorce). To some degree this reasoning has carried over to current times. The modern example is the case that everyone thinks of: the husband works, and the wife stays home with the kids (or a sick relative). When they divorce after a long marriage, the husband pays the wife alimony.

Justifications for Alimony in SC: Modern

Awards of alimony in SC are now less gender-specific: women are required to support their husbands in some cases. There are also more modern justifications for awarding alimony.

Following a long marriage, a situation may arise in which one spouse cannot maintain the standard of living the couple or family enjoyed during the marriage. Therefore, the other spouse provides some support. This occurs when the couple shares an expensive lifestyle for a long time that is largely paid for by one spouse’s large salary.

Another situation where alimony may be appropriate is one in which one spouse makes substantial sacrifices (either financially or in earning capacity) to allow the other to pursue educational or professional opportunities. Then they divorce before the sacrificing spouse receives a return on his or her investment in their goals. This situation can occur in relationships where one spouse works (and pays for) the other to attend school, or where one cannot work (and therefore loses valuable work experience) due to having a spouse in the military.

Factors Affecting Awards of Alimony in South Carolina

As you can see from these examples, whether to award alimony in SC is heavily dependent on the length of the marriage. Other factors, adapted from the S.C. Code of Laws 1976 Section 20-3-130(C), include:

  • the earning capacity of each spouse
  • ages of the spouses
  • each spouse’s education (and whether either spouse needs more)
  • the standard of living during the marriage
  • each spouse’s health (both physical and mental)
  • each spouse’s employment history
  • marital misconduct
  • any support obligation from another former marriage
  • custody of the children (and its effect on one spouse’s ability to work)
  • each spouse’s expenses

Types of Alimony in SC

As provided by S.C. Code Ann. Section 20-3-130(B), there are different types of alimony in SC:

1. Periodic Alimony

  • Payments are ongoing but can end if the supported spouse remarries, continues to live with someone else, or if either spouse dies.
  • The court can change or stop the payments if circumstances change in the future.
  • Used when ongoing support is necessary and may need adjustments over time.

2. Lump-Sum Alimony

  • Involves a one-time or periodic payment for a specific total amount.
  • Payments only stop upon the death of the supported spouse and cannot be changed based on remarriage or future circumstances.
  • Used when the court decides on a fixed and unchangeable support amount.

3. Rehabilitative Alimony

  • A finite sum paid either at once or periodically.
  • Ends if the supported spouse remarries, continues to live with someone else, or based on a specific future event.
  • Payments can be modified if unforeseen events hinder the supported spouse’s efforts to become self-supporting.
  • Designed to help the supported spouse through rehabilitation efforts, like job training or education.

4. Reimbursement Alimony

  • Paid in a fixed sum, either at once or periodically.
  • Ends with the remarriage, continued cohabitation, or death of either spouse.
  • Payments are not changeable based on future circumstances.
  • Used when the court deems it necessary to reimburse the supported spouse for events or circumstances during the marriage.

5. Separate Maintenance and Support

  • Periodic payments that end if the supported spouse continues to live with someone else, upon divorce, or if either spouse dies.
  • Payments can be changed or stopped based on future circumstances.
  • Used when a divorce is not sought, but support is needed while the spouses are living separately.

6. Other Forms of Spousal Support

  • The court has the authority to order any other form of support it considers fair and just under the circumstances.
  • There is no limitation on the court granting more than one form of support.

Effect of Marital Misconduct on Alimony in SC

South Carolina is one of the few states where marital misconduct can affect the financial circumstances of a couple’s divorce. For starters, a spouse who commits adultery cannot receive alimony in SC pursuant to S.C. Code of Law 1976 Section 20-3-130(A). Further, other misconduct — like financial mismanagement, habitual drunkenness, physical cruelty, or desertion — may prevent a spouse from receiving alimony if it contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.

What Does Your Lawyer Want to Know When Giving Advice about Alimony in South Carolina

To consider whether alimony is appropriate for your situation, be prepared to provide your lawyer answers to questions like these:

  1. How long have you been married?
  2. How old were each of you when you got married?
  3. What circumstances have led to your divorce? Have you or your spouse committed adultery?
  4. Have you and your spouse both worked during your marriage? What do you each do?
  5. How much money do you earn? How much does your spouse earn?
  6. What kind of lifestyle have you and your spouse shared during your marriage? Have you lived in a “fancy” house or taken expensive vacations?
  7. Do you or your spouse have ongoing health issues? If so, what are they? How have they impacted your ability to work?

If you are concerned about an award of alimony in SC, you should schedule a consultation with an experienced South Carolina Family Court lawyer right away.