Will I Receive Alimony After My Divorce?

How support payments and legitimate need are calculated in South Carolina

One of the more common questions South Carolina residents ask when contemplating divorce is, “Can I ask for alimony?” The short answer is yes: Either spouse to a divorce proceeding may petition the court for an award of alimony. But whether or not the judge grants alimony depends on multiple factors. And not alimony is the same; there are different types of awards that last for different periods of time.

The Five Types of Alimony in South Carolina

South Carolina law recognizes five broad categories of alimony:

  • Periodic Alimony: This is an ongoing alimony award that ends when the receiving spouse remarries, moves in with a new romantic partner or dies. This form of alimony is appropriate when the judge is prepared to make a determination as to the receiving spouse's financial needs, but wants to leave the door open to modifying the award in the future.
  • Lump-Sum Alimony: This is when the court orders one spouse to make a single payment of alimony to the other spouse. A lump-sum award may actually be paid in installments; the critical thing is that it represents a “finite” award that cannot be modified later.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony: Like lump-sum alimony, rehabilitative alimony is an award of a finite sum that is paid either upfront or in installments. But, like periodic alimony, a rehabilitative award will terminate upon the receiving spouse's remarriage, cohabitation with a new partner,or death. (Lump-sum alimony usually only terminates in the event of the recipient spouse's death.) As the name suggests, the purpose of this type of alimony is to “provide for the rehabilitation of supported spouse,” i.e., to enable the spouse to complete job training before reentering the workforce.
  • Reimbursement Alimony: This is similar to rehabilitative alimony, but is designed to “reimburse the supported spouse from the future earnings of the payor spouse based upon circumstances or events that occurred during the marriage.”
  • Separate Maintenance and Support:This refers to alimony awarded when the parties are separated and living apart but not yet divorced. A separate maintenance award ends when the divorce becomes final or the receiving spouse remarries or cohabitates with someone else.

Calculating the Amount of Alimony

There’s no single formula South Carolina judges use to determine the exact amount of an alimony award. Instead, state law lists a number of factors to consider based on the facts of a given case. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • the duration of the marriage and the ages of the parties;
  • each spouse's physical and mental condition;
  • the education level of each spouse, as well as each spouse's possible need for additional training to reenter the workforce;
  • the “standard of living” established by the parties during their marriage;
  • the “current and reasonably anticipated” earnings and expenses of each spouse;
  • the relative assets owned by each spouse, taking into account any division of marital property;
  • the effects of child custody, particularly on a spouse who is not in a position to seek employment outside the home;
  • any “misconduct” or “fault” on the part of either spouse that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.

Once again, there is no single factor that is definitive when it comes to establishing the duration and amount of an alimony award. That is why it is best to speak with an experienced South Carolina divorce attorney regarding the specific facts of your case.

For more information on this area, see our overview of family law.

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