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Enough is Enough: How Can Alimony Be Terminated in South Carolina?

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | Mar 19, 2018 | 1 Comment

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Alimony is one of the most controversial topics in family law. Regardless of your position on whether it should be awarded in divorce cases, when it has been awarded, the payor (the person paying the alimony to someone else), usually wants to know how those payments can be terminated permanently under South Carolina law. Read on to find out more:

What Types of Alimony Can Be Awarded in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, there are several types of alimony, also known as "spousal support".

Lump Sum Alimony, is a definite amount and is either paid all at once or in a series of fixed payments. 

Permanent Periodic Alimony, the most common type, is paid on a regular schedule, usually monthly, and can continue for a set period of time or indefinitely, as the case may be.

And finally, Rehabilitative Alimony is a kind of alimony that is awarded when one spouse needs a helping hand to get back on his or her feet. It's paid typically every month and lasts for a finite number of years.

Is It Possible to Terminate Alimony?

A common question is how is alimony terminated in South Carolina and under what circumstances can it end? The answer depends on which type of alimony is involved in the case.

Permanent periodic alimony only ends in the event of the death of either spouse or when the supported spouse remarries or cohabits with another person for a period of 90 days or more.

Typically, the other two types of alimony (Lump Sum and Rehabilitative Alimony) have built-in "termination" clauses which specify how long the alimony will be paid and how much the payments will be. It's unlikely either of those will be terminated early, absent some proof of fraud on the Court (i.e., someone lied or misrepresented the financial information presented to and relied upon by the Court to set the alimony award in the original case).

How Do I Prove My Ex is Cohabiting With Another Person?

When we meet with people who are paying a permanent periodic alimony who are seeking to terminate the payment, this is one of the most frequently asked questions. It is also one of the most difficult facts to prove in a Family Court to the level necessary to terminate the alimony.

It happens frequently that an ex-husband believes his ex-wife is seeing someone new, possibly living together, but how do you prove it? First things first, the issue of cohabitation is addressed in S.C. Code Section 20-3-150 which defines cohabitation as:

A supported spouse residing with another person in a romantic relationship for a period of 90 or more consecutive days.

You may be thinking that an easy way around this is to only live with the other person for 89 days, separate and then resume living together for another 89-day-period, right? Wrong! The law also allows for alimony to terminate when a supported spouse is residing with someone else for less than 90 days if the separations are merely intended to circumvent the 90-day requirement.

The problem is that this exception can be difficult to prove. Hiring a private investigator is often expensive and time consuming, especially if they need to conduct surveillance for 90 consecutive days. Neighbors and/or close friends would likely be very uncomfortable (if not outright hostile) to testifying against a supported spouse. No one wants to be the reason someone loses part of their monthly income. Also, even if people are living together, they may both still have their own houses, making it that much more difficult to prove they are cohabitating.

Without an admission by your ex or the new lover, it can be very hard to prove cohabitation. There are other ways to find information and documents which might prove to the Court the new couple's cohabitation intentions, but those methods involve issuing subpoenas, which cannot be done without a new court case being filed. Absent such irrefutable evidence, it can be very difficult to terminate alimony based solely on the cohabitation exception.

The Stevens Firm, P.A. - Family Law Center has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over two decades, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. We are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us at (864) 598-9172  or click here to schedule an initial consultation.

About the Author

J. Benjamin Stevens

Senior Partner


Dan Garrett Reply

Posted Oct 01, 2018 at 07:03:50

My wife (Frances) and I own Crucial Investigations located in Greenville, SC. We have sucessfully handled several cohabitation investigations. We control the cost by using technology and experience (GPS Tracking as well as covert cameras) to document the 90 consecutive days. The average cost for an alimony investigation runs between $10,000 and $15, 000.
A rule of thumb is if three years of alimony will pay for the investigation and attorney fees it is well worth the effort.

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