Alimony is a payment one spouse makes to support the other spouse while a divorce action is pending and possibly continuing after a divorce is finalized. There are several different types of alimony that may be on a temporary or permanent basis. The amount and duration of alimony may be agreed on by the parties or court ordered if the parties can not reach an agreement. In South Carolina, whether to grant an award of alimony and the type of alimony to be ordered is in the discretion of the court, should the court determine alimony appropriate under the circumstances.
Under South Carolina law, there are five types of alimony:
Periodic alimony is when the court orders one spouse to make regular, ongoing payments for some period of time. These payments are usually monthly, but the schedule of when payments are to be made is in the discretion of the court. This type of alimony can be reviewed and modified by the court when the spouse's circumstances change.
Lump sum alimony is a set amount of support where the court determines the total amount of the support one spouse should pay to the other. This amount is paid either all at once or in a few installments. Unlike Periodic alimony, an award of a lump sum amount cannot be changed after the order is made.
Rehabilitative alimony is a type of alimony where one spouse supports the other spouse who may not have the ability to support themselves due to being out of the workforce for an extended period of time. The goal behind this type of alimony is to provide the non-working spouse with the opportunity to attend school or obtain other skills to better enable that spouse to make a better living. The amount of support the frequency it is to be paid is determined by the court. Rehabilitative alimony can be ordered to be paid in one lump sum or periodically over some time specified by the court.
Reimbursement alimony may be awarded to compensate one spouse that supported the other spouse or family, so that the other spouse could expand their own education or training enabling them to get a better job and earn more money. For example, let's suppose that the wife worked two jobs to support the husband or entire family so that the husband could go to medical school. Now, that the husband has finished medical school and is a doctor, he has an much higher ability to make a living. This is due in part because the wife supported the husband so he could go to medical school. Now that the spouses are divorcing, the wife might be awarded reimbursement alimony as a way to pay her back for supporting the husband's ability to earn more income.
The final type of alimony is separate maintenance and support. This type of alimony can be awarded when the spouses are no longer living together but are also not asking for a divorce. This type of support is paid on a regular basis and can be modified if circumstances change.