Unlike child support in South Carolina, there is not a specific mathematical equation to determine alimony. The courts consider a number of factors to establish whether alimony should be awarded in a particular case, what type of alimony should be awarded and how much. Family court judges have wide discretion in determining alimony.
The purpose of alimony is to place the supported spouse in a position to maintain the marital lifestyle. Permanent periodic alimony is just that…permanent. This type of alimony is generally paid monthly until the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the supported spouse. Rehabilitative alimony is generally paid monthly as well, but for a set period of time. Rehabilitative alimony can be awarded in cases in which it is proven that the supported spouse can become self-sufficient during a certain time period. Lump sum alimony is self-explanatory. The amount of lump sum alimony awarded is a fixed amount that can be paid all at one time or spread out in payments.
Family court attorneys are often asked about the role of fault and length of the marriage in the determination of an alimony award. While alimony will not be awarded in a case where the spouse seeking support has committed adultery, it can be awarded to a spouse who is "at fault" in other ways for the breakdown of the marriage. There is no magic number of years two people must be married before alimony becomes an option. Fault and duration of the marriage are merely two of many factors considered by the court.
Other factors considered by the court include the physical and emotional condition of each spouse; the educational background of each spouse, together with need of each spouse for additional training or education in order to achieve that spouse's income potential; the employment history and earning potential of each spouse; the standard of living established during the marriage; the current and reasonably anticipated earnings of both spouses; the current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of both spouses; the marital and non-marital properties of the parties, including those apportioned to him or her in the divorce or separate maintenance action; 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; the tax consequences to each party as a result of the particular form of support awarded (alimony is generally taxable to the supported spouse); the existence and extent of any support obligation from a prior marriage or for any other reason of either party; and anything else that the court deem relevant in making its determination.
If you or your friends or family find yourself in a situation in which alimony payments may be an issue, contact me at Finklea Law Firm.
~ Brooke Chapman Evans