For those getting ready to divorce, one of the most common questions is what they will receive (or have to pay) when it’s all over. Unfortunately, there is no easy online calculator where you can type in all the facts and get a magical mathematical response. The truth is, judges are humans, and those humans are making the decisions for divorcing couples every day. Sometimes, they make really good decisions; other times they do not. On the other hand, there are some clear principles and statutes that can give a little more certainty to the process.
With this in mind, consider three basic things that are awarded in a divorce: (1) Alimony, (2) Property Awards, and (3) Child Support. While there are a lot of complex laws that apply to these things, for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to look at the most common ways these are awarded.
Alimony is support for a spouse. When two people get divorced, it’s like a business partnership dissolving, and the court wants to make sure that neither person is left worse off than the other. In other words, equity and fairness are the goal. Under Section 20-3-130 of the South Carolina Code, alimony can be awarded four different ways:
1. Lump Sum
For those who are able to make a single one-time payment, this can be preferable, because it puts an end to ongoing disputes and hopefully severs any future disputes over money. But it’s not always an option.
This is regular, continuing support that terminates upon the death of either spouse or upon a court order. Parties can agree to a natural end date. New changes to the law make it harder for spouses to get lifetime awards. Unless your marriage was longer than 10 years, a court will generally not award permanent alimony.
For those who’ve been out of the working world for a while, rehabilitative alimony can be used to assist that spouse in rebuilding work skills and getting back on his or her feet.
This is not all that common, but it is used to pay back a spouse who spent money that only benefits the other spouse. Consider where one spouse puts the other through college or pays off a large sum of their educational loans.
How is Alimony Determined?
Judges look to nine factors when determining whether to award alimony. No single factor is dispositive. Judges try to use a holistic approach that focuses on fairness.
- Length of the marriage;
- Emotional, psychological, and physical abilities of less advantaged spouse;
- Education levels of both parties;
- Both people’s work histories;
- Each person’s earning potential;
- Custody of children;
- Misconduct during the marriage (and pending divorce); and
- Potential tax issues for either party.
Courts can award child support. This is money paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the purpose of helping take care of children. South Carolina child support laws require a court to consider the best interests of the child when deciding how much to award. A court will also consider the respective incomes of both parents and the ability of the party to pay as ordered. For a broad estimate of how much child support may be awarded in your case, you can use the State’s child support calculator.
Once the court has arranged for the continued support of children and ensured a fair and equitable system of support for either spouse, mutually owned property must be divided. South Carolina is an ‘equitable distribution’ state, meaning that the court does not just arbitrarily split everything 50/50.
Rather, much like alimony, the court is going to look at the overall financial condition of both spouses after divorce, and determine how to fairly distribute personal property. This includes TVs, vehicles, cash accounts, retirement accounts, savings, heirlooms, furniture, and just about anything else that needs to be divided. Some things are not subject to division, however. These may include inheritances and some types of unique income.
Getting Legal Help ASAP
If you are facing a divorce, don’t try to work it out with your spouse without consulting an attorney first. There are easily overlooked considerations that could cost you thousands of dollars. People who handle their own divorces often find the process takes longer and they must make multiple unnecessary court appearances and save you valuable time and money.
Contact Lauren Taylor Law for a confidential meeting to discuss your divorce. Get answers to your toughest divorce questions, and find out what options you may have.
South Carolina divorce attorney Lauren Taylor practices family law in Charleston and Greenville. She graduated from the Charlotte School of Law, and has been practicing for more than ten years.
Since the firm’s inception in 2012, Mrs. Taylor has helped hundreds of people navigate the uncertainties surrounding the family and criminal court process.
She has cultivated a team that ensures each case has a strategy crafted specifically to the clients needs and desires.
Her commitment to top notch service has led her to open two additional offices in the low country where she now resides with her husband Michael and her golden retriever, Buster.