How Long Does Alimony Last in South Carolina?

Alimony is financial support that one divorced spouse pays another, in an amount and duration that are set according to various statutory factors. It comes in several different forms depending upon the needs of the receiving spouse and the intended purpose of the money.

Both spouses often wonder how long the obligation to pay alimony will last and what may cause it to end or be modified. If you have a pending alimony case in Greenville, SC, you can benefit from knowledgeable legal counsel. Turner Family Law is here for you, and can help your alimony case.

The Different Types of Alimony in South Carolina

Both spouses in a divorce action can petition the court for alimony, either in the complaint or the counterclaim. The general purpose of alimony is to help a divorcing spouse have the financial means necessary to pay bills and make ends meet. There are several different types of alimony.

In South Carolina, how long alimony will last depends upon the specific type that is awarded. Alimony can take one of the following forms:

Alimony pendente lite

This is a form of temporary alimony that is paid to a spouse during the divorce process. Its primary purpose is to provide temporary support while the divorce is pending in the court system.

Periodic alimony

Also called permanent periodic alimony, this type of support is paid monthly until the receiving spouse remarries or cohabitates with a romantic partner for at least 90 days. It can also end upon the death of either spouse (unless security is required to guarantee payment).

Periodic alimony may also be modified or terminated if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the initial court order that awarded it.

Lump-sum alimony

Lump-sum alimony is a single, set amount that is either paid all at once or over the course of several payments. This type of alimony ends only upon the death of the receiving spouse. It is not terminable or modifiable on the basis of remarriage of a change in circumstances.

Rehabilitative alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is a fixed amount of support that is paid to a receiving spouse. The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to provide financial assistance so the receiving spouse can attend school or acquire job skills necessary to enter the workforce again. “Rehabilitative” essentially means enabling the spouse to become financially independent following the divorce.

This alimony can be paid in one or multiple payments. It may be terminated upon the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the receiving spouse or (unless security for the payment is ordered) the death of either spouse.

It can also be modified if unforeseen events cause either (a) the good faith efforts of the receiving spouse to become self-supporting or (b) the ability of the paying spouse to keep paying alimony. Ending dates are set up which coincide with some specific event that makes the alimony no longer necessary, such as completion of education.

Reimbursement alimony

Reimbursement alimony is a fixed sum that is paid to the receiving spouse, either all at once or in installments. It may be terminated if the receiving spouse remarries or continually cohabitates or if either spouse dies (unless, as with rehabilitative alimony, security is established). It is not terminable or modifiable based upon changed circumstances.

Separate maintenance and support

This is temporary spousal support that is paid while the parties are living separate and apart but have not yet been divorced. It is typically paid on a monthly or bi-weekly basis. It terminates upon the continued cohabitation of the receiving spouse, the divorce of the spouses, or the death of either spouse (unless security is established). It can also be terminated or modified based upon changed circumstances.

Other forms of alimony

The court can order some other form of alimony that doesn’t fit into one of the above categories, under terms and conditions the judge considers to be fair and reasonable.

How Long Do You Have to be Married to Get Alimony in South Carolina?

There is no minimum length of time in South Carolina that a marriage must last before a divorcing spouse becomes eligible for alimony. Every alimony case has to be considered on its own merits and using the above factors, including the length of the marriage. As a general guideline, the longer the marriage lasted, the more likely alimony will be awarded and the longer it will last.

What Factors Affect the Amount of Alimony?

In determining how much alimony to award, the court must consider the following:

  • How long the marriage lasted
  • How old the spouses are
  • Each spouse’s earning potential (e.g. job prospects)
  • The current and anticipated earnings of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s employment history
  • Each spouse’s education and training, and whether more is needed to become self-sufficient
  • The standard of living that existed during the marriage
  • Each spouse’s physical, mental, and emotional health
  • Marital misconduct that affected the economic circumstances of the spouses or caused a breakup of the marriage
  • Any support obligation from a previous marriage
  • The tax consequences of the particular form of alimony awarded
  • Which spouse has custody of the children and how it will affect his or her ability to work
  • The current and anticipated expenses and needs of each spouse
  • The marital and nonmarital properties of the spouses
  • Any other relevant factors

Judges have discretion to give each factor as much weight as they decide is appropriate. The length of the marriage, the ages of the spouses, and each spouse’s earning abilities tend to be given more weight than other factors.

Have Questions About Alimony in Greenville, SC? Turner Family Law Has Answers

How long alimony will last, along with how much it will be and whether the amount can be modified, are questions that involve sometimes complicated factors. Attorney J. Michael Turner, Jr. will represent your best interests, whether you are the spouse seeking alimony or the one from whom it is sought. Contact our office today.

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Initial Consultation

First, we will conduct an initial consultation and we will go over all the facts and details of your case.

Filing and Negotiations

We submit a Complaint to the Court, or help you respond to one. Hearings and negotiations take place.

Final Order

Following mediation, all unsettled parts of your case will be determined by the trial judge who issues final rulings.

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