Divorce often impacts a spouse’s ability to make ends meet after the departure of the other, income-earning spouse. Alimony exists to help fill the gap so husbands and wives won’t face financial devastation after the marriage ends.
Some spouses have concerns as to whether they can pay the alimony amount demanded by the other spouse. Meanwhile, spouses who need support worry that the amount being offered isn’t enough.
Whether you are the spouse who receives alimony or the one who pays it, your objective is to end up with a court order that you can live with. Greenville, SC alimony attorney Angela Frazier is able to represent your best interests, regardless of which side of the case you are on.
Alimony Defined in South Carolina
Alimony is a form of spousal support paid by one party to the other after their marriage ends. The primary purposes of alimony are to help financially dependent spouses maintain the lifestyles they enjoyed during marriage and to ensure they can continue meeting their needs.
Courts understand that it can be difficult to pay one’s bills when a spouse goes from a two-income earning household down to one because of divorce. Alimony alleviates the resulting stress.
In South Carolina alimony law, there is both a supporting spouse (the one who pays alimony) and a dependent spouse (the one who receives it). The dependent spouse must prove that he or she actually needs the money, because alimony is not automatically guaranteed in divorce.
When Should a Spouse Seek Alimony?
During your separation period, you may begin to realize how difficult it is to live on your own without the income of your husband or wife. An attorney may advise you during this time to seek temporary spousal support from the other spouse. If it becomes clear during your separation that paying your bills will continue to be a challenge, your spousal support lawyer may suggest seeking alimony.
There are often marriages in which one spouse gives up a career for the sake of starting a family, only to find themselves economically vulnerable after the marriage ends. The spouse might have stayed home to raise children, sacrificing his or her career or an education that may have led to higher earnings.
Regardless, attempting to re-enter the job market after a significant period can prove challenging, and alimony is there to assist.
Why Would a Spouse Oppose Paying Alimony?
On the other hand, spouses often balk at the amount of money being requested by the dependent spouse. Not wanting to pay alimony or feeling as though the other spouse doesn’t deserve it are not good reasons to oppose alimony. You will need stronger arguments and supporting evidence to defeat the other spouse’s request.
For instance, the other spouse may be highly educated and able to return to the job market with relative ease. If this cannot defeat the spouse’s alimony claim outright, it may at least limit the amount and duration of payments.
Another reason to oppose alimony is that the amount being asked of you may not be feasible given your income and expenses. Finally, it’s worth noting that many spouses settle this issue during mediation by offering more marital property to the other spouse in lieu of more alimony.
What Are the Different Types of Alimony in South Carolina?
Every marriage is unique, and so are the financial circumstances of every ex-husband and ex-wife. In recognition of this, the law permits multiple types of alimony, including:
- Periodic: This is one of the most common arrangements, under which monthly payments are made from one spouse to another. Periodic alimony can be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change of circumstances. Examples are if the dependent spouse remarries or cohabitates with someone.
- Lump sum: Lump sum alimony refers to a set, fixed amount that is paid all at once or over time. The total amount cannot change and will only terminate if the dependent spouse dies. This type is often ordered in lieu of property settlements arising from the divorce.
- Rehabilitative: The purpose of this alimony is to help a spouse become self-supporting through education or training. It ends upon the death of either spouse or the dependent spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation. It may also end upon the occurrence of a specific event and can be modified in some cases.
- Reimbursement: Spouses often invest in their partners’ educations or careers during the marriage, whether financially or in intangible ways such as staying home to raise children. Reimbursement alimony may be paid all at once or periodically to compensate the spouse. It is not modifiable and it terminates upon the death of either spouse or the dependent spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation.
- Separate maintenance: This option is available if spouses do not want to divorce but would like to live separately. Alimony may be awarded if the individual circumstances of the case permit it.
- Other types: Depending on the unique circumstances of a particular marriage, other types of alimony may be appropriate. Your alimony attorney can advise you.
What Factors Go Into Awarding Alimony?
To determine the type, amount, and duration of alimony, a court will evaluate such factors as:
- Length of the marriage
- The spouses’ ages when they were married and when they separated
- Both spouses’ physical and emotional health
- The spouses’ educational backgrounds and whether more education is needed to re-enter the workforce
- The employment prospects, likely income, and earning potential of both spouses
- The spouses’ standard of living during the marriage
- Anticipated expenses of both spouses
- The assets of each spouse, including property that is awarded in divorce proceedings
- Child custody, especially if it prevents or limits a parent’s ability to work
- Marital misconduct or fault, such as adultery
- The tax liabilities for either spouse
- Other support obligations from a previous marriage
- Any other relevant factors
Does Adultery Impact a Spouse’s Eligibility for Alimony?
As mentioned above, evidence of marital fault and misconduct will be considered by the judge overseeing the alimony case. Adultery was specifically listed because alimony in South Carolina will not be awarded to a spouse who committed adultery. The adultery must have happened before the spouses signed a marital settlement agreement or before an order of separate spousal maintenance and support was entered by the court.
How To Enforce Unpaid Alimony
As with any family court order obligating a spouse to do something, there are often cases in which the supporting spouse fails to pay alimony to the dependent spouse. Judges take their orders seriously and have a number of ways to enforce alimony, including:
- Income withholding
- Contempt of court
- Requiring the party to pay the ex-spouse’s court and legal fees
- Community Service
The spouse who allegedly didn’t pay alimony will get a chance to defend themselves at a court hearing. Defenses could include an actual inability to pay alimony, for instance due to a job loss, or that the party who filed contempt interpreted the order incorrectly. If you find yourself unable to pay alimony as ordered, don’t wait for contempt allegations to be filed. Work with a spousal support lawyer to address, and potentially modify, the alimony order.
Asking the Court to Modify Alimony
If the type of alimony is modifiable, either party can file a petition with the court to increase, decrease, or terminate payments. The general rule of modifying South Carolina family court orders, including those concerning alimony, is that there must be evidence of a substantial change in circumstances since the last court order. Reasons which may support modifying alimony include:
- The supporting spouse loses their job or has a pay cut
- A change in the financial needs of the dependent spouse
- Remarriage or cohabitation by the dependent spouse
- In certain cases, the supporting spouse’s retirement
Parties should never privately modify a court order for alimony. The judge must hear evidence and arguments, make findings of fact, and issue an order that modifies or terminates alimony. Until then, the old order remains enforceable.
Contact Our Greenville Alimony Attorney
The law firm of Elliott Frazier — Family, Personal Injury, & Car Accident Attorneys, LLC understands the importance of alimony, no matter if you are the one requesting or being asked to pay it. Our firm handles all aspects related to alimony and is ready to address your specific needs and concerns.
To learn more, connect with our Greenville, SC spousal support lawyer Angela Frazier. Schedule a case review using our online form or call 864-635-6323.