South Carolina’s alimony laws can be confusing and alimony cases can be complicated. Unlike child support, there is no approved formula to determine whether or how much alimony to award. Instead, the family court judge has broad discretion where alimony is involved.
That is not to say there are no rules in alimony cases. South Carolina statutes define at least four different types of alimony:
Permanent periodic alimony is the type most often awarded in South Carolina family courts. The word “permanent” also makes it the most controversial type among people ordered to pay it. Here is where some of the confusion mentioned above comes in: “permanent” awards are modifiable if circumstances change, as they always do. “Permanent” awards also may end under certain circumstances, such as remarriage of the spouse receiving alimony.
To make alimony cases more complicated, the family court judge is required by statute to consider 13 factors associated with alimony, ranging from the duration of the marriage to the tax consequences of an alimony award. The 13th factor on the list is “such other factors the court considers relevant.” In other words, the family court judge has the authority to consider virtually anything and everything related to the parties and their relationship.
Claims for alimony generally are met with stiff resistance, and cases involving alimony typically are very contentious. Because South Carolina statutes bar an adulterous spouse from receiving alimony, private investigators often are involved to verify and document marital misconduct.