Opinions on alimony are often based on whether you're the person paying it or receiving it; however, alimony shouldn't be viewed as a reward or a punishment, but rather an attempt by the court to create financial balance between a divorcing couple. Alimony (also called spousal support or spousal maintenance) varies greatly from case to case, state to state and courtroom to courtroom. Even the best attorney can't guarantee you what a judge may decide; however, here are a few common questions we can answer:
Can we agree on our own alimony numbers? For the most part, the court loves for parties to reach their own agreements; however, not all agreements will be approved by the court. As long as the agreement seems fair and in the best interest of the parties involved, you can expect that the court won't second guess your decision.
What factors does the court consider when determining alimony? Every judge will place different weight on different evidence, but factors you can expect to be considered will include the length of the marriage, the age of the spouses at the time of the marriage and divorce, each spouse’s educational background, whether either spouse needs additional education/training to increase earning ability, each spouse’s physical and mental health, each spouse’s employment history and earning capability, the standard of living during the marriage, the current earnings of the spouses and any expected changes in their incomes, the current expenses of the spouses and any expected changes in their expenses, each spouse’s separate and marital property (including property awarded in the divorce or separation proceedings), which spouse has custody of the children and whether that spouse can be expected to work outside of the home or on a full-time basis, any misconduct or fault of either spouse that affected the couple’s financial circumstances or contributed to the breakup of the marriage, tax consequences of support payments to each spouse and whether either spouse is paying support to another person.
What are the different types of alimony in South Carolina? South Carolina law provides four (4) different types of alimony:
Periodic alimony. This term represents what most clients think of when they hear "alimony." The supporting spouse will have to make ongoing monthly support payments for a period of time. Periodic alimony ends early if the supported spouse remarries or lives with another person in a romantic relationship for 90 days or more. It also ends if the supporting spouse dies. The court may review and modify the alimony award in the future if the spouses’ circumstances change.
Lump sum alimony. Lump sum alimony is a set amount of support paid either all at once or in a few installments. The amount cannot be changed after the order is made.
Rehabilitative alimony. The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to help a spouse attend school or a training program in order to improve job skills and earn more money. This is usually for spouses who have been out of the work force for a significant period of time during the marriage. Payments might be made in one payment or over time. The difference between this type and the two above is simply the purpose behind the payment. Rehabilitative alimony will end when the total amount is paid, if the supported spouse remarries or lives with another person in a romantic relationship for 90 days or if either party dies (unless the order states otherwise). Changed circumstances (such as the supported spouse getting a new job) may also be grounds to modify the prior order.
Reimbursement alimony. Reimbursement alimony compensates a spouse who provided financial or personal support during the marriage which allowed the other spouse to improve their earning capacity through increased training or education. Again, the paying spouse will provide the payments in one lump sum or in installments over time. It generally ends when the amount is paid in full, but might also be terminated by death or the supported spouse living with or remarrying another party.
What is separate maintenance and support? Althoughoften confused with alimony, this is support provided when a couple has not yet requested a divorce, but is no longer living together as husband and wife. This type of support is paid on a regular basis, usually monthly. The court may modify the order if circumstances change during the pendency of the support. Your amount of support while waiting for your divorce is not a guarantee of the amount of alimony you will receive or pay. This type of support generally ends when the parties divorce or either spouse dies.
How is alimony taxed? In most cases (or if the Order is silent on this issue), the spouse paying support can deduct the payments from his/her income while the spouse receiving support must count the payments as income. Although this is the default provision, it can be changed by agreement or Order.
Couples contemplating or proceeding with a divorce always have tons of questions about alimony. Consider taking advantage of a discounted consult with an attorney today to get your questions answered.