In Divorce Law, Family Law

It can sometimes be difficult to understand the differences between alimony and child support . Though both involve payments from one person to the other, they are different in a number of ways. Knowing the differences between alimony and child support in South Carolina can have a significant impact on the outcome of a divorce.


image of alimony cash payment

Periodic alimony is often awarded when a couple have been married for decades and have established a certain lifestyle.

In general, alimony is a substitute for marital support which is normally incidental to the marital relationship and occurs periodically. Its purpose is to put the spouse that was supported during the marital relationship in the position they were in during the marriage. These payments may be permanent or temporary, depending on the situation. In certain situations when there has been a change in circumstance, the court may modify the obligations. Butler v. Butler, 385 S.C. 328 (Ct. App. 2009). A party that is seeking a modification or termination of alimony must show by the preponderance of the evidence that an unforeseen change in circumstance has occurred. Id.

When taking into consideration whether the court should modify or terminate alimony obligations, the court may consider: (1) the duration of the marriage; (2) the physical and emotional health of the parties; (3) educational background of the parties; (4) employment history and earnings potential of the parties; (5) standard of living established during the marriage; (6) current and reasonably anticipated earnings of the parties; (7) current and reasonably anticipated expenses and needs of the parties; (8) marital and nonmarital properties of the parties; (9) custody of children; (10) marital misconduct or fault; (11) tax consequences; and (12) prior support obligations. Id.

When a trial judge awards alimony to a spouse, it is income to the person receiving the payments. Since it is considered income, it is tax deductible. The financial amount awarded to a spouse is not calculated using a mathematical formula. Rather the judge will take into consideration the statutory elements presented above in determining whether alimony should be awarded. A judge can order that a certain amount be paid for any period of time, possibly even until the day a person dies. These payments will end upon the remarriage of the person receiving them. These payments can only be ordered if the two spouses are getting a legal separation or divorce, meaning they are required to have been married in order to receive alimony. The law does not require that the two spouses have a child with one another.

Child Support

image of child support agreement form

South Carolina family courts are compelled by both law and decency to promulgate the best interest of the child when possible.

On the other hand, child support means payments from one parent to the other to provide the child with the same proportion of parental income that they would have received had the parents lived together. In South Carolina, court ordered child support is set based on guidelines which consider the income of both parents. Sexton v. Sexton, 321 S.C. 487, 490 (Ct.App.1996). In any proceeding for the award of child support through the application of South Carolina’s guidelines, there is a presumption that the amount awarded is the correct amount. S.C.Code Ann. § 63–17–470(A) (2010). When making this calculation, courts take into consideration a number of criteria, including actual gross income, the number of children, health insurance premiums (portion covering the children), other child support and alimony payments, custody arrangements, and work related child care costs. In certain situations when there has been a substantial change in circumstances, the court may modify the obligations. Floyd v. Morgan, 389 S.C. 469 (2009).

Child support payments are not considered income to the person receiving them, therefore they are not tax deductible. The financial payment is calculated on the basis of a mathematical formula using South Carolina Child Support Guidelines. Once a child becomes emancipated, reaches the age of 19, or graduates high school, whichever comes first, child support payments end. However, in certain situations like the child going to college, the payments may continue. Also, payments continue regardless of the subsequent marital status of the person paying or receiving the benefit. Child support does not require that the parents ever be married to one another but it requires that the couple has a child together.

When Alimony and Child Support Apply

Alimony applies sometimes.
In South Carolina, most marriage over 10 years are considered “alimony” cases. It may still apply if the couple has been married less than 10 years, but it’s less likely. The longer the marriage, the more likely alimony will become an issue.

Every case concerning minor children involves child support.
The amount, as mentioned above, will be determined based on the SC calculator – or sometimes when agreed under similar terms.

Consider these facts: 12 year marriage,  2 children, total income over $250,000 per year, husband or wife own a business, and equity in a marital home. Most cases with these, or similar, facts will involve both alimony and child support.

If you need assistance with a divorce law or any family law related issue, contact Henderson & Henderson at 843-212-3188. See how a divorce attorney and a family attorney can help you. Our lawyers have years of experience and stand ready to fight for you, contact us for any question..

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