Spousal support (also known as alimony) is a big part of many divorces because it directs the payment of money from one spouse to another, which allows the recipient spouse to maintain the same standard of living that he or she became accustomed during the marriage. One spouse may dread it because he or she will have to pay it, while the other spouse may want it because he or she will be provided a source of income. Each divorce is different, and thus each spousal support determination is unique.
Types of Alimony
There are four types of spousal support:
- Periodic alimony : This is the most common form of alimony and it consists of monthly payments made from one spouse to the other.
- Lump-sum alimony : The court orders the paying spouse to pay either a one-time lump sum payment to the recipient spouse, or orders that a lump-sum be paid over a period of time. This amount is not modifiable and only terminates if the recipient spouse passes away.
- Reimbursement alimony : This type of alimony is paid to a recipient spouse if the recipient spouse helped pay for the paying spouse to further his or her education, or gain new or better employable skills. The idea behind this type of alimony is that the recipient spouse made an investment in the other spouse and will not reap the benefits of that investment due to the divorce.
- Rehabilitative alimony : This is alimony that is paid to a recipient spouse so that the recipient spouse can work towards becoming self sufficient. It is usually used for educational purposes or for building work skills.
When the Court Makes an Alimony Determination
Alimony is not decided according to a precise formula. Rather, a Family Court judge will consider an extensive list of factors when making an alimony determination, including but not limited to:
- The duration of the marriage.
- Each spouse's need and ability to pay alimony, along with each spouses present ability to earn income, and each one's future ability to earn income.
- What level of education and specialized training each spouse has or if one spouse worked primarily in the home during the marriage.
- Each spouse's age, health and conduct leading up to and during the divorce proceedings.
- The couple's assets and the types of property and the value of that property.
When Can Alimony Determinations be Changed or Terminated?
Under South Carolina law, each type of alimony, except for lump-sum alimony, can be adjusted up, down or terminated if one of the spouses experiences a significant change in circumstances after the divorce. Adjustments must be accepted by the court, and are usually awarded if the change in circumstances was not self-inflicted or contrived. For example, if the payee spouse deliberately lost his or her job so that he or she would no longer have to pay alimony, the court would find that the payee's situation deliberately self-inflicted and would not make the requested adjustment to the alimony payment amount.
An increase in the cost of living due to inflation, or the recipient spouse's sudden, but temporary, need for more alimony, could warrant an increase in alimony payment amounts. Similarly, if the payor spouse suddenly loses his or her job, or suffers an injury that leads to a financial emergency, the payor could request that the alimony payment amount be reduced.
Alimony can also be terminated. Specifically, if either spouse dies, the alimony obligation dies with them. If the recipient spouse remarries or begins cohabitation with another lover for a period exceeding 90 days, the alimony obligation can be terminated as well.
Contacting a South Carolina Family Law Attorney
Winning alimony in a divorce can be extremely hard. Regardless of which side of the alimony determination you are on, when you need legal advice regarding alimony, you should consult with the experienced alimony attorneys at the Sarji Law Firm, LLC. Contact the Charleston family lawyers at Sarji Law Firm, LLC today by calling 843-323-4341.