Adultery and Divorce
South Carolina defines adultery as a person having sexual relations with someone who is not his or her legal spouse. Because South Carolina is a “fault” state when it comes to divorce, the person whose spouse had an affair with someone else can allege and then set out to prove the unfaithfulness as a basis to obtain a divorce. It is just one of several types of bad conduct that can work against a spouse in divorce proceedings.
Family law judges in South Carolina will consider adultery (one proven) as a ground for divorce unless there is a valid defense, like that both spouses cheated or one spouse forgave the other after discovering the affair. If adultery is proven in a divorce case, it can have an impact on numerous issues in the divorce, like division of property and debt and alimony. It is not likely to affect custody issues, however, unless the child was exposed to the affair or the affair otherwise affects the parent’s caregiving ability. The most severe impact of adultery, however, often relates to alimony.
What You Should Know About Alimony in South Carolina
Alimony is the term for payments that one spouse makes to help financially support the other. This is a common issue in marriages where, for example, one spouse worked part time or did not work at a paying job so he/she could care for the family. Another common alimony scenario is where one spouse worked to put the other spouse through college or grad school and that spouse now earns a much higher income because of that degree.
South Carolina currently has several categories of alimony. These include:
- Pendente lite: This is a temporary order for alimony that lasts only as long as the divorce proceedings are ongoing. This would be replaced by whatever alimony is ordered or agreed to in the parties’ final divorce or separate maintenance order.
- Permanent, periodic: After the divorce proceeding is complete, the spouse ordered to pay alimony does so in monthly (or other periodic) installments until either spouse dies, the payee spouse remarries or cohabitates with a romantic partner for ninety (90) days or more, or either of them have a significant change in their financial circumstances.
- Lump sum: This describes alimony paid as a finite amount. It may be paid in one or more installments, and usually cannot be modified or terminated.
- Rehabilitative: This could be paid in either a lump sum or as monthly installments. It is intended to last only a finite period until the spouse receiving alimony has the chance to complete additional education or job training to enable him or her to become financially self-sufficient.
- Reimbursement: With reimbursement alimony, the judge orders one spouse to pay back the other spouse for things such as a college education or job training.
If either spouse committed adultery during the marriage, he or she is not eligible to receive alimony in South Carolina. Additionally, the spouses may not have sexual relationships with others while living apart but not yet legally divorced. If the spouse who is asked to pay can prove that adultery took place, the other spouse will not be awarded alimony.
Here are some other factors that family law judges in South Carolina consider in addition to affairs and other bad conduct by the spouses when ruling on alimony and setting the amount:
- How long the marriage lasted;
- General health of each spouse, both physical and emotional;
- The current and potential income of each spouse as well as his or her employment history, post-secondary education level, and known job skills;
- The standard of living each spouse came to expect during the marriage;
- Child support and alimony received by either spouse from previous relationships;
- Taxes the receiving spouse must pay on the alimony;
- Percentage of childcare duties each spouse completed (if applicable);
- Amount of property awarded to each spouse.
Additionally, in special circumstances the judge may order the paying spouse to purchase life insurance to ensure the spouse receiving the alimony has a financial safety net in the event alimony ends due to the death of the paying spouse.
Get Help with Your Divorce Proceeding Today
When there are issues such as adultery and alimony to resolve, a divorce can quickly become complicated. In such cases, you need a strong advocate in your corner working tirelessly to protect your rights and interests. At The Cate Law Firm, our attorneys have decades of experience representing clients for all types of complex family legal matters. We work closely with our clients to provide the skilled and personalized representation they need and deserve. To schedule a consultation with one of our seasoned family law attorneys, contact us today at 864-585-4226, or send us a message through our private and confidential web contact form. You may also stop by our office in Spartanburg.