Types of Alimony in South Carolina

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During a divorce, alimony can be a contentious and emotionally-charged issue. Sometimes referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance, alimony is a payment made from one spouse to another to provide financial support (for the recipient spouse) during and after a marriage dissolution. Alimony is not awarded in every divorce case, and there are numerous factors that go into determining whether or not it should be awarded, the type, amount, and manner of payments.

Some of the factors South Carolina courts use to determine if spousal support should be awarded include:

  • The length of time the couple was married;
  • The age and physical and mental health of each spouse;
  • The employment history, current earnings, and earning capacity of each spouse;
  • The educational background of each spouse and whether or not additional training is necessary to increase earning capacity;
  • The established standard of living during the marriage;
  • The expenses and expected changes in expenses for each spouse;
  • The assets and property of each spouse;
  • Which spouse has custody of the children, and if the spouse with custody is able to work full-time or outside the home with kids to take care of;
  • Any fault or misconduct (on the part of either spouse) that led to the divorce and/or impacted the couple’s finances;
  • Whether either spouse is paying support to another party;
  • The tax implications of alimony payments.

Types of Alimony in South Carolina

Spousal support can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances of the case, and there are several types of support that may be awarded:

  • Permanent, Periodic Alimony: This is the most common type of alimony and the one South Carolina courts are most likely to order, especially for long-term marriages. Periodic alimony is support paid on an ongoing basis (usually monthly) with no specified end period. Instead, this type of alimony is paid until either party dies or the recipient spouse remarries or cohabits with a romantic partner for 90 days or longer. Permanent periodic alimony can be altered or terminated when there is a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.
  • Lump Sum Alimony: This is a fixed amount of support. The amount is determined by the court at the time the order is made and cannot be changed or terminated unless the recipient spouse dies. The amount can be paid in one lump sum, or it can be paid in installments over a specified period of time.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony: The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to help the recipient spouse receive training or schooling in order to increase their earning capacity. This type of spousal support is commonly awarded when one spouse has been out of the workforce for a while or, for any other reason, does not currently have the ability to earn enough income to support themselves but would with additional education.
  • Reimbursement Alimony: This type of alimony is awarded to compensate the recipient spouse for sacrifices made (e.g., financial and/or personal support) that allowed the payor spouse to receive the training and education necessary to establish/increase his/her earning capacity.
  • Separate Maintenance and Support: This is what alimony is sometimes called when a couple is separated and in the middle of divorce or separation litigation—it is temporary and lasts until a final order is entered. Similar to periodic alimony, this type of support is paid regularly (usually monthly) and can be altered or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances prior to the end of the case. It is also sometimes referred to as alimony pendente lite, meaning it is temporary until further order of the Court.

Important Alimony Tax Law Changes for 2019

A major change to the federal income tax code regarding alimony payments is set to take effect on January 1, 2019. Currently, most types of spousal support payments are deductible for the payor spouse, and the recipient spouse is required to report the payments as income on their federal tax return. As of the beginning of 2019, this 75-year-old tax deduction is eliminated for the payor spouse, and the recipient spouse no longer has to claim the payments as income.

This means that alimony will become more expensive for the payor spouse, and because spouses tend to be in far different tax brackets when spousal support is awarded, this change could vastly reduce the combined income of the two spouses. Divorces finalized on or before December 31, 2018 are not subject to these tax law changes, so if you are currently considering divorce and you’re likely to pay alimony, it may be in your best interest to try to finalize it before the deadline.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney in South Carolina

Dissolving a marriage puts a lot of stress on everyone involved, and alimony is a common source of dispute. A fair and reasonable spousal support arrangement can help ensure that you come out of the divorce financially intact. At The Cate Law Firm, we have helped countless clients with alimony awards during a divorce. We have over 50 years of combined family law experience, and we work closely with clients, advocating forcefully for their rights and interests. To schedule an initial consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, call our Spartanburg office today at 864-585-4226, or you may send us a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.

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