What You Need to Know About Alimony in South Carolina
Alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is a court-imposed obligation that requires a spouse to provide financial support to the other spouse. Alimony can be temporary or permanent. While the concept is well-known, how to receive alimony, the reasons for alimony, and how the court determines alimony are all questions that require a look into the law.
How Alimony is Awarded:
A spouse can receive alimony in two ways.
The first is by mutual agreement on the amount and payment terms between the parties. Once the parties have agreed to terms, this agreement is presented to the court for approval. If the court finds the agreement reasonable, the court will often accept the agreement and put the alimony payment into an Order.
The second way is when the court steps in and decides whether alimony should be awarded and the amount to award. The amount of alimony owed to a spouse largely depends on the court’s reasoning for granting the alimony. The needs of one spouse will differ from the needs of another. However, all alimony awards must be based on certain factors discussed below.
Reasons for the Court to Award
Alimony is not meant to punish spouses going through a divorce. Alimony is not a weapon, but instead a tool that allows a disadvantaged spouse to gain financial independence. The primary purpose of alimony is to allow a spouse earning less money in the marriage to get on their feet and provide for them with a lifestyle similar to what they are accustomed to.
The most common example is that of a spouse that chose to take care of the home while the other spouse is a part of the workforce to provide for the family financially. Now that the couple is facing a divorce, the homemaker needs an opportunity to develop marketable skills and find employment.
For this reason, alimony is often temporary. Although, temporary alimony may be awarded to a spouse for several years. The length of which a court orders alimony depends on the individual circumstance, but the factors the court considers remain the same for every case.
How is Alimony Determined?
When asking the court to grant a divorce, any party is able to ask the court to grant them alimony. According to South Carolina law, no alimony will be awarded to a spouse that commits adultery before the signing of a marital settlement agreement or before the court’s entry of a permanent order of spousal support.
The court will consider thirteen factors listed in the law to determine if alimony is needed. These factors help the judge determine which spouse, if either, needs spousal support. They also provide the judge with some guidance on how much alimony should be awarded.
Factors Considered by the Court:
(1) The duration of the marriage and the parties’ ages at the time of the marriage and at the time of the divorce.
(2) The physical and emotional condition of each spouse.
(3) The educational background of each spouse and the need of each spouse for additional training or education to achieve that spouse’s income potential.
(4) The employment history and earning potential of each spouse.
(5) The standard of living established during the marriage.
(6) The current and reasonably anticipated earnings of both spouses.
(7) The current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of both spouses
(8) The marital and nonmarital properties of the parties, including those apportioned to him or her in the divorce or separate maintenance action.
(9) Custody of the children, particularly where conditions or circumstances render it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home or where the employment must be of a limited nature.
(10) marital misconduct or fault of either or both parties, whether or not used as a basis for a divorce or separate maintenance decree if the misconduct affects or has affected the economic circumstances of the parties or contributed to the breakup of the marriage.
(11) The tax consequences to each party as a result of the particular form of support awarded.
(12) The existence and extent of any support obligation from a prior marriage or for any other reason of either party.
(13) Such other factors the court considers relevant.