Spouses in South Carolina who divorce or separate have numerous questions about alimony. They want to know the types of alimony there are, the factors that determine whether alimony should be awarded, how much alimony should be awarded, and whether alimony awards can be modified.
We discuss these topics on our main alimony page. Some of the follow-up questions that dependent spouses and payor spouse have about alimony include the following:
What are the grounds for seeking a modification of an alimony order?
All types of alimony are modifiable except for a lump-sum award. To modify an alimony award, there must be a change in circumstances of either the dependent spouse or the spouse paying alimony. The family court will generally consider the same factors that they did when the original award was entered – provided the changes are substantial. Judges do not want ex-spouses or separated spouses going into court for small changes.
Common reasons a spouse will seek to modify an alimony award include:
- A change in the health status of either spouse.
- A change in income status of either spouse such as the loss of a job, a promotion, or other financial changes related to the job. The family court will examine whether the change is legitimate. They will not order a modification if a spouse deliberately reduces his/her income to avoid paying alimony.
- A dependent spouse who is cohabiting with someone and being supported by that person.
- The need for a spouse to move to a different location due to their job or for legitimate personal reasons.
If there is a change in custody of the children, that could possibly be a ground for modification since custody, especially if the custodial parent is required not to seek employment outside the home, is one of the basic alimony factors family courts consider.
What are the grounds for terminating an alimony order?
A spouse who is paying periodic alimony, rehabilitative alimony, or reimbursement alimony can, based on Section 20-3-150, request that the alimony award terminate if:
- The spouse who is receiving alimony dies.
- The spouse who is receiving alimony remarries or continually cohabits with someone. Generally, a spouse won’t be disqualified from receiving periodic alimony if they have a one-night stand. The cohabitation has to be continuous. In South Carolina, a cohabitation of 90 days or more is considered continuous. The family court can consider cohabitation periods of less than 90 days if there are multiple short-term cohabitation periods just to avoid the 90-day condition. Proving cohabitation may require employing a private investigator.
- If the spouse who is paying alimony dies, then that spouse’s estate is not required to pay alimony unless the alimony award required that the payor spouse have a life insurance policy to cover post-death alimony payments.
If the alimony award is a lump sum payment, once the full payment is made, the alimony case is closed.
If alimony is based on separation, the alimony award ends when the spouses divorce or if the spouses reconcile and live together again. A new alimony award can be entered when the spouses divorce.
If spouses agree in a prenuptial or postnuptial contract that there will be no alimony award, then the family court will normally enforce that provision unless there are grounds to invalidate the premarital or postmarital agreement.
The spouse who is paying alimony should seek court approval of the termination. The spouse shouldn’t terminate payments on his/her own.
Is gender a factor in alimony in South Carolina?
No, it is not. Husbands and wives can both be ordered to pay alimony.
Can the IRS collect taxes on alimony payments?
As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the person who is paying alimony can no longer deduct alimony payments. The spouse who receives alimony no longer has a duty to report the alimony payments as taxable income. Generally, the TCJA applies only to alimony agreements entered after December 31, 2018. If you have an alimony agreement that became a contract before December 31, 2018, even if the order was modified after that date – then the payor spouse can deduct the alimony payments and the payee spouse must report the alimony payments as income.
Your lawyer can also explain what payments are considered alimony and which payments are not. For example, child support payments, are not the same as alimony payments.
Does adultery affect alimony in South Carolina?
South Carolina statute Section 20-3-130 provides that “No alimony may be awarded to a spouse who commits adultery before the earliest of these two events:
(1) the formal signing of a written property or marital settlement agreement or
(2) entry of a permanent order of separate maintenance and support or of a permanent order approving a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties.”
In other words, if you are going to have relations with someone, you should wait until the divorce is final and all the agreements are signed and approved. Otherwise, you may risk being denied your right to alimony.
Does domestic abuse affect alimony?
Section 20-3-130-10 provides that family courts, in determining whether alimony can be ordered, can consider the marital misconduct or fault of either spouse (whether or not misconduct is a grounds for divorce or a separate maintenance decree) if “the misconduct affects or has affected the economic circumstances of the parties, or contributed to the breakup of the marriage…” Marital misconduct cannot be considered if it occurred “subsequent to the happening of the earliest of (a) the formal signing of a written property or marital settlement agreement or (b) entry of a permanent order of separate maintenance and support or of a permanent order approving a property or marital settlement agreement between the parties.”
At Holland Law LLC, I explain the rights of a dependent spouse to alimony and the obligations of a spouse to pay alimony. Many alimony awards are resolved through negotiation or mediation. I also advocate for my clients who seek to obtain or contest alimony in family court. I understand all the ways divorce affects spouses and children. To discuss all aspects of your divorce, including alimony, please call me to schedule an appointment. We represent spouses in York, Lancaster, and Chester Counties. You can call us in our Fort Mill office on Gold Hill Road, or in our Rock Hill office on Oakland Avenue at 803-219-2630, or fill out our contact page.
Tom Holland previously served as the General Counsel for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, the City Solicitor for the City of Lancaster, and as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Sixth Circuit Solicitor’s Office. He is a single father, and through his own divorce gained valuable insight he now uses to provide Fort Mill and Rock Hill, SC families with the best representation. Learn more about Tom Holland.