Alimony is one of the most important aspects of modern divorce. It represents court-ordered payments for the support of one former spouse by the other and is usually awarded in cases where one spouse was the primary financial support for the household before divorce. The second spouse, who may have limited potential for earnings, is then entitled to continued support following the separation and dissolution of marriage.
There are different types of alimony in South Carolina. It is important for any divorcing couple to understand how the process works, and what each different form represents. Here is a look at the three primary types of alimony: rehabilitative, permanent and temporary.
Validity of Marriage
Whether a spouse is eligible for alimony following divorce depends on several factors. The most important of these, however, is not whether one spouse made significantly more money than the other. In fact, the most important factor is whether there was a marriage in the legal sense to begin with. This does not refer to whether you were married in a church or roadside chapel; rather, it refers to the idea of annulment or void marriages.
An annulment is the legal process of permanently invalidating a marriage. In essence, the couple file paperwork to request that the courts rule that there never was a valid marriage. In a void marriage, the relationship is viewed to have been invalid from its inception and the parties can simply go their separate ways without any interference from the courts. If either of these circumstances exist, there can be no alimony.
Other Spousal Support Factors
There are a number of things that go into determining whether alimony is warranted in a marriage. These can include the ages of the spouses, the earning capacity of each, their health and physical condition, the degree of training, education and career potential available to the supported spouse, the ability of one spouse to pay support, how long the couple was married, their standard of living and more.
The battle for alimony can be hard and complex. Usually in order to make sure the agreement is fair and equitable, the parties involved should secure the services of a qualified divorce attorney.
In some cases, divorce proceedings can drag on for a very long time, which can leave a spouse in serious financial difficulty if support is not rendered. In these cases, the courts may award alimony pendente lite, which is a type of support that is intended to exist for the length of proceedings and may transfer over to another form of alimony later, or may end with the finalization of the divorce, depending on the circumstances in play.
If, for example, a couple who have been married for several years and have children are in a situation where one parent quit a lucrative job to become a primary caregiver, temporary alimony could be awarded to that parent during the divorce process while their ability to support themselves is limited.
In some cases, a spouse may give up an encouraging career to enter a relationship. Alternately, a spouse may quit a promising job to maintain a marriage. In such cases, rehabilitative alimony may be awarded while the spouse takes time to update, improve or otherwise gain new training so that they can properly re-enter the workforce and begin to support themselves. It can be a direct evolution of temporary alimony.
In the example above, the spouse being paid alimony could, after the divorce is finalized, need time to further their education or otherwise find a new job. Rehabilitative alimony can be awarded to permit and facilitate this process. The court may or may not impose a time limit or duration of time during which this alimony is paid, though at the end of the duration if more time is required it may be possible to file for an extension.
Permanent alimony is awarded upon the finalization of divorce proceedings, when the marriage is permanently dissolved. There are many forms it can take, depending on the nature of the former spouses’ financial situation and what the paying spouse can afford, as well as the divorce agreement. Some of these forms include:
- Payment for services (in-kind payment)
- Lump sum payments
- Weekly or monthly regular payments
- Annuity awards paid annually
- Payments in trust
Even though they are called “permanent alimony,” these awards typically don’t last forever. Generally speaking, there is no specific time limit, but the courts can revisit the award upon the change of one spouse’s circumstances and make adjustments or end it as they feel the situation warrants.
Divorce is a hard and painful road to walk, and it’s important to have expert legal representation by your side. Only an experienced attorney can fight for your rights and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve while not being taken advantage of by the other side. For more information, feel free to contact our law firm for a consultation today.