When you get divorced, you have a lot of questions about how your finances will look after you’ve split assets with your spouse. If you’ve been married for more than 10 years, and your spouse spent much of that time at home helping raise your children, you may need to pay spousal support (or alimony) as your spouse most likely isn’t earning even close to what you do.

What determines spousal support?

In South Carolina, a judge will decide if you must pay spousal support. Most often, a judge looks at the following in deciding if spousal support is necessary:

  • How long you have been married
  • What your spouse’s and your age are
  • What the earning potential of your spouse is and what her employment history is
  • What standard of living was established during the marriage

Also, if you’ve committed adultery and that can be proved in court, that automatically can qualify your spouse for alimony.

The judge weighs how much support will be needed to lessen the financial impact of the divorce on your spouse. There’s no set formula for alimony, as there is with child support.

What types of spousal support are there?

In South Carolina, spousal support can be structured in many forms, including permanent periodic alimony, rehabilitative alimony, lump sum alimony and reimbursement alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is only for a set amount of time, perhaps a year or two, as your spouse gains further education or training needed to reenter the workforce.

Reimbursement alimony covers any economic sacrifices your spouse made to enhance your future earning capacity. For example, if your wife worked full-time while you pursued a doctoral degree to become a professor, your wife may be eligible for reimbursement alimony. That would cover the amount she paid toward your education, household expenses and more during that time.

The most common form of spousal support is permanent periodic alimony, in which your spouse receives monthly or biweekly payments. These most often occur until your spouse is remarried, is in a long-term cohabitating relationship with some else or passes away.

Can I get the spousal support reduced?

Spousal support can be reduced by seeking a modification with the court. If you lose your job and can no longer pay the spousal support required in your divorce settlement, work with a family law attorney right away. It’s better to have that amount lowered through a modification than to not pay and end up not following the court order to pay your spouse alimony.