If you’re divorcing in South Carolina, there’s a chance that alimony will be ordered. The size and duration of alimony payments can vary based on an array of circumstances. If you work with the Greenville alimony lawyers at Hernandez & Cabra, you’ll be able to get detailed answers to all of your questions about spousal support. Call 864-501-4384 today to schedule a confidential consultation with our family law attorneys.
What Is Spousal Support, Alimony, and Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal support, alimony, and spousal maintenance are all terms used to describe the same thing: court-ordered payments that one spouse is ordered to provide to another after a divorce or a separation. Alimony is designed to help mitigate the financial penalties that a lower-earning or non-working spouse experiences because of a divorce.
South Carolina has four different types of alimony: lump sum, permanent periodic, rehabilitative, and reimbursement alimony. If a couple has separated but not divorced, a spouse may also be awarded separate maintenance and support. Family courts also have the authority to award additional forms of spousal support that they deem to be appropriate under the circumstances.
Lump-sum alimony is designed to provide a spouse with a fixed amount of support. It may be split into payments or paid out in full in one payment. It cannot be altered unless the spouse being supported dies and will continue even if the supported spouse chooses to remarry.
Permanent Periodic Alimony
Permanent periodic alimony is paid until the death of either spouse or until the spouse being supported remarries or cohabitates for 90 days or more. It is typically paid monthly or bi-weekly. While it is designed to be permanent, it can be altered or terminated if either party has a significant change in their circumstances. This is the most common form of support awarded in South Carolina.
Rehabilitative alimony is paid periodically for a pre-specified period of time. It’s designed to give the supported spouse the opportunity to become self-supporting. For example, if one spouse is working on a degree, the other spouse could be ordered to provide them with support while they finish their degree. It can also be terminated if either spouse dies or if the supported spouse remarries or cohabitates for at least 90 days.
Reimbursement alimony is designed to reimburse a spouse for financial or personal investments they made on behalf of the other spouse. For example, if one spouse was a stay-home parent while the other spouse focused on their career, the courts could order the higher-earning spouse to reimburse the spouse for the services that they provided.
Will Spousal Support Be Awarded?
Judges have a great deal of discretion when deciding whether support will be awarded. A spouse is likely to be awarded some form of support if there are factors that restrict them from seeking full-time employment, such as health issues, education, and dependent children. Other factors that judges may consider include the duration of the marriage, reasonable living expenses for both parties, and the standard of living both spouses had during the marriage.
If one party is determined to be at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, that will also be taken into consideration. In South Carolina, a spouse that committed adultery before a written settlement was reached is ineligible to receive alimony. However, a spouse could still be awarded alimony if they engaged in other types of marital misconduct.
How Do I Reduce My Exposure to Spousal Maintenance?
There are a number of ways to reduce exposure to alimony payments. If you believe that your spouse engaged in marital misconduct, that should be investigated. South Carolina does not require you to provide that your spouse committed adultery. You only need to demonstrate that they had the inclination and opportunity.
You can also take steps to decrease household expenses and increase the earning potential of your spouse. For example, if you’re able to help your spouse find a job, you’ll be able to show the court that they are capable of covering their own reasonable expenses.
You should not try to lower your own income in order to reduce potential alimony payments. If the court finds that you deliberately lowered your income, your previous income may still be used to determine the support that you owe. This kind of behavior can reflect negatively on you in court and may lead to higher payments overall.
Rather than taking dramatic steps that have the potential to backfire, it’s best to work with an experienced Greenville alimony lawyer. The right attorney can provide you with advice that will reduce your alimony exposure without putting you at risk.
How Is Alimony Determined?
There’s not a specific formula that courts use to determine alimony in South Carolina. The state has very few formal guidelines for alimony, and because of that, alimony decisions are largely at the discretion of the court.
With that said, there are many factors that courts will consider when deciding if alimony should be ordered. Courts will also look at these factors when deciding on the type of alimony that should be awarded and the amount the supported spouse should receive.
The main factors that a judge will focus on when deciding whether alimony should be ordered are:
- The necessity of alimony
- Why alimony is needed
- Whether alimony payments would cause undue hardship to the supporting spouse
- Whether the divorce is fault-based
If a judge decides to order alimony based on those elements, they will look at additional elements to determine how much should be awarded and how long the payments should continue.
How Much Alimony Will I Have to Pay?
South Carolina does not use specific calculations when determining alimony payments, which can make it difficult to accurately estimate how much you’ll be ordered to pay. Spouses that seek alimony payments will not always be awarded alimony by the courts.
Although South Carolina does not have specific alimony guidelines, the courts are expected to look at specific factors when making a decision. These factors are:
- The duration of the marriage
- The age of both spouses at the time of the marriage
- The training and education of both spouses
- The employment history and earning potential of both spouses
- The current earnings of both spouses
- The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
- Reasonable expenses for both spouses
- The assets of both spouses
- The custody of dependent children
- Marital misconduct
- Tax consequences of alimony payments
- Existing child support and alimony obligations
Calculating alimony payments isn’t easy, which is why you’ll want to work with an experienced alimony attorney. Hernandez & Cabra can help you determine if alimony payments are likely to be awarded and can estimate how much those payments might be. We can also represent your interest during settlement negotiations and will work to ensure that any agreements are fair to both parties.
When Can I Stop Paying Alimony?
Your obligation to pay alimony will always end if the supported spouse remarries or cohabitates with a romantic partner for 90 days or more. These payments should end automatically, which means you won’t have to obtain a court order.
Some types of alimony, like lump-sum or rehabilitative alimony, will end at a pre-specified date. Depending on the type of alimony that is awarded, you may also ask for alimony payments to be altered or terminated if either spouse experiences a significant change in circumstances. As an example, if a supported spouse finds a high-paying job, you could request that the court reviews your alimony agreement.
What Does Spousal Support Pay for?
The goal of alimony is to provide a spouse with financial support after a divorce. Alimony payments may be used to cover living expenses, the cost of education or training, or other personal expenses. South Carolina has different types of alimony, and the purpose of spousal support isn’t always the same.
Rehabilitative payments are intended to give the supported spouse the opportunity to become self-sufficient. Reimbursement payments provide a spouse with reimbursement for their contributions during a marriage. In many cases, alimony payments are ordered to ensure that the supported spouse is able to maintain a similar standard of living after a divorce.
How Do I Find the Best Greenville Alimony Lawyer for My Divorce?
It’s important to work with a divorce attorney that practices in the Greenville area. Since South Carolina judges aren’t required to follow specific guidelines when awarding alimony, you’ll want to make sure you work with a lawyer that is familiar with the local courts and judges.
It’s also vital that you work with an experienced law firm that has handled a wide range of cases. Whether you’re able to agree to a settlement through negotiations or will be facing a contested divorce battle in court, you should make sure you have the support you need.
Alimony payments can vary wildly in South Carolina, which is why it’s crucial that you work with the best Greenville alimony lawyers. You can trust Hernandez & Cabra to protect you throughout this process, ensuring that the final divorce settlement is fair. Reach out to us today at 864-501-4384 to set up a free consultation.