Ten Year Rule for South Carolina Divorce

One of the most common questions a divorce attorney will be asked is whether or not there is a 10 year rule for divorce in their state? A 10 year divorce rule is a legal principle that changes the way a divorce is handled when couples have been married for a decade or longer, which can be very beneficial to parties in a divorce, depending on the circumstances. The rule is designed to effect the way alimony is handled after marriages reach a certain duration (namely, 10 years).

In California, for example, a spouse can benefit from alimony payments if they are married for 10 or more years, but there are a few criteria a spouse must meet in order to collect. First, the spouse must earn less income than the other spouse to be eligible for alimony, and the other spouse must be able to pay for it financially. Assuming these factors are met, the spouse can retain the right to receive alimony for as long as he or she needs, and the court has the discretion to continue or end the alimony payments as they see fit. Typically, when circumstances change or the lesser earning spouse remarries, alimony payments will cease.

There are a few other states that follow this framework, and states that follow this practice are of great benefit to lesser earning spouses. South Carolina adheres to a 10 year rule of sorts, albeit without a specified time duration, and the notion of permanent alimony has become a hot-button topic in South Carolina as a result.

South Carolina Alimony Laws

In South Carolina, there is no explicit bright-line rule of 10 years like there is in California, but there is still a permanent periodic alimony that can be awarded. Permanent periodic alimony can be awarded to a lesser earning spouse by a family court judge, and if this occurs, the higher earning spouse must make permanent payments that will only end on three conditions. First, if either spouse dies, the alimony payments will end. Alternatively, if the supported spouse finds a new partner to marry, the payments will end once the spouse has remarried. Finally, if a supported spouse cohabitates with a new romantic period for longer than 30 days, alimony payments will end. The periodic aspect of “permanent periodic alimony” involves the spouse making payments on a weekly or monthly basis, as the name suggests.

Permanent Alimony

South Carolinians are currently discussing whether it makes sense to have permanent alimony, and this article highlights many of the salient issues discussed in the debate. In the Kiplinger article, the author argues that permanent alimony can be a useful tool to protect a dependent spouse who has forsaken career opportunities to benefit the family and the marriage. Still, while the benefits of permanent alimony are without question in some circumstances, the author still notes that alimony ought to be reviewable and, most importantly, modifiable. Otherwise, the permanent alimony could be used as a punitive punishment on the higher earning spouse, which is not the purpose of alimony.

Unsurprisingly, both sides of this issue are represented in current South Carolinian debate. Many spouses, both men and women alike, want to change the permanent alimony standard that is often employed in South Carolina. Others, however, believe it is wrong to take away a judge’s discretion in the family court. After all, the judge is best informed as to the particular needs of both spouses, which is why supporters of permanent alimony suggest that a bright-line rule against permanent alimony would harm the judge’s ability to properly exercise judicial discretion.

At the present time, however, it is important for lesser earning spouses to know and understand that they still have the opportunity for permanent alimony payments for their security and peace of mind. That said, it is worth reiterating that the duration of the marriage is one of many factors that a South Carolina court considers when making an alimony determination. Other considerations include the financial status of each spouse, the custody arrangements of their children, the standard of living established in the marriage and other considerations. If you are a spouse that needs to know more about South Carolina alimony laws or any other divorce-related legal issue, contact our experienced divorce attorneys so you can receive the expert legal advice that you need.