Understanding and Calculating Alimony in South Carolina

Find out how alimony (spousal support) is awarded and calculated in South Carolina.

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Gavel and Scales

Alimony is a regular payment one spouse makes to the other for support during and/or after a divorce. The spouses may agree to alimony, or the court may order it if the spouses can’t agree. Alimony orders may be temporary or permanent.

Types of Alimony

In South Carolina, the court has the discretion to make any alimony order that is appropriate, considering the couple’s circumstances. South Carolina law provides for five different types of alimony:

  • Periodic alimony. If the court orders periodic alimony, the supporting spouse will have to make ongoing support payments (usually paid monthly) for a period of time. The court may review and modify the alimony award in the future if the spouses’ circumstances change.
  • Lump sum alimony. Lump sum alimony is a set amount of support. The court determines the total amount of the support at the time the order is made, and that amount is paid either all at once or in a few installments. The amount cannot be changed after the order is made.
  • Rehabilitative alimony. The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to help a spouse who’s been out of the workforce or for some other reason doesn’t have the ability to earn much income. The alimony allows that spouse to attend school or a training program in order to improve job skills and earn more money. The court will determine the total amount of support when the order is made, to be paid in one payment or, more commonly, in installments over time.
  • Reimbursement alimony. The purpose of reimbursement alimony is to compensate a spouse for support, whether financial or personal, that allowed the other spouse to get training or education that contributed to his or her earning capacity. For example, a judge could order reimbursement alimony to a spouse who worked and supported the family during the marriage while the other spouse went to school. The court will determine the total amount of reimbursement support at the time the order is made, and the paying spouse will provide the payments in one lump sum or in installments over time.
  • Separate maintenance and support. The court may order separate maintenance and support when the spouses are not asking for a divorce but are no longer living together. This type of support is paid on a regular basis, usually monthly. The court may modify the order if circumstances change.

Factors the Court Considers in Making an Alimony Order

When deciding whether to order alimony and in determining the type, amount, and manner of payments, as well as how long the order will be in place, South Carolina courts will consider:

  • the length of the marriage
  • the age of the spouses when they got married and at the time of the divorce
  • each spouse’s educational background, and whether either spouse needs additional education or training to increase earning ability
  • each spouse’s physical and mental condition
  • each spouse’s employment history and earning ability
  • the standard of living during the marriage
  • the current earnings of the spouses and any expected changes in their incomes
  • the current expenses of the spouses and any expected changes in their expenses
  • each spouse’s separate and marital property, including property awarded in the divorce or separation proceedings
  • which spouse has custody of the children and whether that spouse can be expected to work outside of the home or on a full-time basis
  • any misconduct or fault of either spouse that affected the couple’s financial circumstances or contributed to the breakup of the marriage, if the misconduct happened before the spouses signed an agreement dividing their property or before the court entered a permanent order for separation or divorce
  • tax consequences of support payments to each spouse, and
  • whether either spouse is paying support to another person.

Duration of Alimony

How long an alimony order lasts depends on the type of alimony a court awards.

  • Periodic alimony. Periodic alimony is ongoing, but it will end early if the supported spouse remarries or lives with another person in a romantic relationship for 90 days or more. This type of order also ends if either spouse dies, unless the order states that the payments continue after the paying spouse dies.
  • Lump sum alimony. Lump sum alimony ends after the total amount is paid. It ends early only if the supported spouse dies before the full amount is paid.
  • Rehabilitative alimony. Rehabilitative alimony ends when the total amount is paid. It will end early if the supported spouse remarries or lives with another person in a romantic relationship for 90 days or more. This type of order also ends if either spouse dies, unless the order states that the payments continue after the paying spouse dies. The order might also specify that the alimony will end if a specific event occurs, such as if the supported spouse gets a job. The court might extend the order if something happens to prevent the recipient spouse from working towards becoming self-supported. Likewise, the court may end the order early if the paying spouse is no longer able to continue the payments due to changed circumstances.
  • Reimbursement alimony. Reimbursement alimony ends when the total amount is paid in full. It will end early if the supported spouse remarries or lives with another person in a romantic relationship for 90 days or more. It also ends if either spouse dies, unless the order states that the payments continue after the paying spouse dies.
  • Separate maintenance and support: Separate maintenance and support ends if the spouses divorce or if the supported spouse lives with another person in a romantic relationship for 90 days or more. It also ends if either spouse dies, unless the order states that the payments continue after the paying spouse dies.

Taxes on Spousal Maintenance

In general, the spouse paying support can deduct the payments from income. For the spouse receiving support, the payments count as income and are taxable.

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