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7 Types of Alimony in South Carolina

Because marriage is an economic union, divorce can negatively impact one spouse’s standard of living. Suddenly, they might be unable to pay their rent, mortgage, or utilities, and more than one recent divorcee has ended up homeless. Helpfully, South Carolina recognizes the difficulties of transitioning to a one-person household following the end of marriage. The state allows a spouse to request alimony from their spouse under South Carolina Code § 20-3-130. This is a payment one spouse makes to the other during and/or after divorce. 

Alimony serves many purposes, so there are different types of alimony. We look at seven of the most popular types of alimony below. At Surasky Law Firm, our Aiken, SC divorce lawyer can meet to review whether you are likely to receive alimony. We can also help negotiate a divorce settlement agreement that could include a right to alimony payments. Call us today to speak with our firm. 

Lump Sum Alimony 

Lump sum alimony is a specific amount of money, typically paid all at once. Alternatively, it might be spread out over multiple installments. Lump sum alimony only terminates early if the spouse receiving it dies. 

For example, a judge might decide that alimony should be $100,000. The paying spouse could make that in one payment, or the court might spread it out over several years. Lump sum alimony is not common, in our experience. 

Periodic Alimony 

Periodic alimony is one of the most common types of alimony. It consists of regular (periodic) monthly payments from one spouse to the other. Periodic alimony is usually permanent, meaning it doesn’t have a fixed end date. The paying spouse makes alimony payments until their ex dies or remarries or some other triggering event terminates the support. 

A typical periodic alimony order might be for $1,000 a month, with no end date. A judge will rely on many different factors to set the amount of alimony. 

Periodic alimony can be modified later based on changed circumstances. For example, the paying spouse might become ill and unable to work. 

Rehabilitative Alimony 

Rehabilitative alimony serves a particular purpose—the help the spouse receiving alimony to become self-supporting. 

As mentioned above, some spouses are heavily dependent on their spouses during marriage for financial support. For example, a woman might stay at home to take care of the couple’s young children. She completely stops working outside the home, so she has little work history. 

After divorce, this mother could struggle to find work. She needs either more education or work experience (or both) before she can earn enough to become self-sufficient. 

Rehabilitative alimony can tide her over. It usually lasts as long as necessary to help the receiving spouse get on their feet. 

Reimbursement Alimony 

Sometimes, a spouse supports their partner through college or when they are starting a new business from scratch. Historically, a common example was a wife who worked to support her husband in dental school or law school. The expectation was that the wife would enjoy the increased income once her husband completed his education and began his profession. 

Unfortunately, the couple might divorce on his graduation day, thus denying the wife any opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his education. She made sacrifices, but only he gets the benefit. 

South Carolina recognizes that is unfair. Reimbursement alimony allows a spouse who made sacrifices to get reimbursed out of the future earnings of their ex spouse. A common example today is someone who begins a small business, which does not make much money initially. The sacrificing spouse supports the family during the lean years. After divorce, this sacrificing spouse can request reimbursement alimony. 

Separate Maintenance and Divorce Alimony 

A South Carolina no-fault divorce requires that couples live separate and apart for one year before they receive a divorce decree. During this separation, you can request separate maintenance. This type of alimony will last only for the duration of separation. When issuing a divorce decree, the judge might also award alimony—or not. 

Separate maintenance alimony helps a spouse transition to a separate household. You cannot live together during this one-year period, otherwise you won’t qualify for divorce. 

Separate maintenance is often critical for making the separation work. Without it, one spouse could immediately end up homeless or struggling. 

Unclassified Alimony 

Judges have quite a bit of flexibility when setting alimony. The judge might find that your situation doesn’t fit neatly into one of the boxes listed above. For that reason, the judge can combine different types of alimony, such as rehabilitative and reimbursement. There might even be a lump sum component, combined with periodic payment. We call this type of alimony “unclassified.” 

Negotiated Alimony 

To this point, we have talked about alimony a judge is empowered to award under South Carolina law. Of course, spouses can always negotiate alimony between themselves as part of a negotiated divorce settlement. You can decide the amount and duration of alimony. You will then submit the agreement to the court to be incorporated into your divorce decree. 

These agreements are valid contracts. If your ex stops making alimony payments under the terms of the agreement, you can sue in court. 

Sometimes, it makes sense to request alimony instead of marital property. The tax laws have changed, so the spouse receiving alimony no longer needs to pay taxes on it. That could be very advantageous, so you might agree to let your spouse take more of the marital property instead. 

Speak with an Experienced Aiken, SC Divorce Lawyer Today 

Are you interested in seeking alimony? Or has your spouse signaled he or she intends to request alimony? Contact Surasky Law firm today to go over your situation in a free consultation with our legal team. 


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