In South Carolina, there are several varieties of alimony, also known as spousal support. There's lump sum alimony, which 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. 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.
A common question is how is alimony terminated in South Carolina and under what circumstances can it end? The answer depends on the type of alimony involved. 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.
This last exception is certainly the most asked about and the most difficult to prove. It happens frequently that a husband believes his 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. The law also allows for the alimony terminating where 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 out right hostile) to testifying against a supported spouse. 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. Possible other avenues include a shared lease agreement or shared utilities. Absent such irrefutable evidence, it can be very difficult to terminate alimony based on the cohabitation exception.