Alimony — Can you get it?

What is Alimony For?  

Alimony is meant to keep the person who receives it in the same position he or she was in during the marriage, as nearly as possible. This means, for example, that if you weren’t taking fabulous vacations during your marriage, you’re not going to get enough spousal support to start taking them.

Most people will experience a decrease in their standard of living when going through a divorce. You’ll be faced with paying the mortgage or rent on your own, paying all of the utilities on your own, paying for all of the groceries on your own. The list goes on and on. It’s really important when you’re considering whether to move forward with a divorce to figure out what exactly you CAN afford in terms of living expenses. You’ll need to get pretty detailed about it — factor in all of your expenses as nearly as you can. That way, you’ll have a good idea about how much support you need to ask for, to make ends meet.

What kind of Alimony can I get?  

South Carolina law allows different types of alimony: periodic alimony (this is what most people think about when they think about alimony – this is when alimony is paid on a regular, indefinite basis, as long as the receiving party doesn’t remarry, die, or start living with a romantic party for a specified period of time); lump sum alimony (exactly what it sounds like – a specified sum of money that is paid either all at once or over a period of time, and is not modifiable); rehabilitative alimony (to allow the supported spouse to get back on his or her feet after a divorce, such as to finish education and get a career started); reimbursement alimony (meant to reimburse the supported spouse from future earnings of the payor, such as where one spouse contributes to the other’s professional degree); separate maintenance and support (temporary alimony pending resolution of the divorce itself); and any other form of spousal support the court thinks is just.

There are many factors a South Carolina court must consider when determining whether to award alimony — more than 10 of them! These include the duration of the marriage, the age of the parties at the time of marriage and at the time of divorce, standard of living during the marriage, marital misconduct or fault, physical and emotional condition of the parties, educational background of the parties, employment and earning potential of the parties, expenses and needs, marital and non-marital properties, custody of the children, tax consequences (recently changed by Congress!), and other factors the court considers relevant.

Can my alimony be changed? 

Sometimes, alimony is modifiable, and in other cases it is not. It is important to discuss the possibility of your alimony changing with a qualified attorney.

Who can’t get alimony?  

There is a statutory bar to an award of alimony to an adulterous spouse. Although other types of marital fault may impact an award of alimony, alimony may still be awarded to an at-fault spouse (who is not adulterous) under the specific circumstances of each case.

What should I do now?  

Seeking an award of alimony or trying to limit your exposure to payment of alimony can be a complicated process. It’s worth spending the time and money to consult with an attorney to help.