Remarriage and Alimony in South Carolina

How does cohabitation or remarriage affect alimony payments in South Carolina?

When a couple divorces in South Carolina, the court may order the higher-earning spouse to provide financial support to the other spouse by paying alimony. When the supported spouse remarries, however, the paying spouse will usually want alimony payments to end.

This article explains how the remarriage or cohabitation of a supported spouse affects alimony under South Carolina law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony in South Carolina after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.

Overview of Alimony in South Carolina

In South Carolina, courts may grant either spouse alimony for a variety of reasons. While courts often award alimony to help a lower-earning spouse pay expenses, courts may also grant a spouse alimony as reimbursement for events that occurred during the marriage, or to pay for the education or training of a spouse who wants to become employable. Alimony that is paid on a regular basis (usually monthly) is called periodic alimony.

Judges determining whether or not to grant alimony consider several factors, including the following:

  • the length of the marriage
  • each spouse’s age and health
  • each spouse’s education (or need for education) or training
  • each spouse’s current income, income potential, and employment history
  • the couple’s standard of living during the marriage
  • each spouse’s needs and expenses
  • each spouse’s property, including property received in the divorce
  • each spouse’s childcare duties
  • each spouse’s conduct and misconduct during the marriage
  • the tax consequences of any alimony award, and
  • other factors the court deems relevant.

If you would like to know more about alimony in South Carolina, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in South Carolina.

Impact of Remarriage on Alimony in South Carolina

In South Carolina, the paying spouse’s obligation to make periodic alimony payments ends upon the supported spouse’s remarriage. When the supported spouse remarries, the paying spouse can stop making payments immediately, without having to return to court or obtain a separate court order.

If the court ordered a spouse to pay alimony in the form of a lump-sum payment or a property transfer, he or she still must make that payment or transfer. These types of alimony aren’t affected by a supported spouse’s remarriage. Also, if a paying spouse owes past-due periodic alimony when the supported spouse gets remarried, he or she will still be required to make those payments.

Termination or Modification of Alimony in South Carolina

South Carolina courts have the authority to review and modify periodic alimony at any time, unless the couple’s divorce agreement specifically prohibits modification. Either spouse can ask the court to review alimony, modify alimony upward or downward, or terminate alimony entirely. A spouse asking the court to change an alimony award must show the judge that one or both spouse’s financial circumstances have changed significantly. For example, if a wife paying alimony loses her job, or a husband receiving alimony becomes employed, the court is likely to lower or end alimony.

To modify or terminate alimony, you should file a motion to modify or terminate alimony in your county family court clerk’s office. The court will schedule a hearing that both you and your ex-spouse must attend. You should bring evidence to the hearing of the changed financial circumstances that warrant a change in alimony.

Alternatively, you and your ex-spouse can modify or end alimony by agreement. If you’re able to do so, make sure the agreement is in writing and signed by both spouses, and submit it to the court clerk. If the judge approves your agreement, it will go into effect without you having to argue your case in a hearing.

Impact of Cohabitation on Alimony in South Carolina

In South Carolina, periodic alimony payments end upon the supported spouse’s “continued cohabitation.” Cohabitation generally means two people living together in a romantic relationship. South Carolina law provides that alimony ends when two people cohabit for a period of 90 days or more. Additionally, a court can decide that a supported spouse has been in continued cohabitation with another person if they live together for less than 90 days, but periodically separate to avoid hitting the 90-day mark.

If you are paying alimony and your ex-spouse is cohabiting with another person, you should file a motion to terminate alimony based on his or her cohabitation. You should gather any proof of your ex-spouse’s cohabitation before going to court, as you’ll need to show the court evidence of their cohabitation. The court will consider evidence such as shared expenses, shared vehicles, bills for both individuals going to the same house, and so on.

If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact a South Carolina family law attorney for help.

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