When can you stop making alimony payments in SC?
If the court has ordered you to pay alimony, does that mean you must continue making payments for the rest of your life?
It depends on the type of alimony that was ordered, but, in many cases, you can stop making alimony payments when certain events occur including:
- The former spouse’s remarriage,
- The former spouse’s continued cohabitation,
- A specific predetermined event,
- A change in circumstances, or
- The death of either party.
When You Can Stop Making Alimony Payments – Triggering Events
There are five types of events that could result in the termination of alimony payments (or a reduction in the amount of payments).
Each type of event does not apply to every type of alimony, however. You will need to look at the types of alimony in the next section below to determine whether a particular triggering event will allow you to stop making alimony payments.
Even if one of these events applies (other than death), you can’t just stop making your payments – you may need to consult with your family law attorney and file an action asking the family court to terminate or reduce your alimony payments based on the event.
If your former spouse remarries, there is no longer a purpose for alimony payments as the new spouse should fill the economic void that was left after the divorce.
This does not apply to lump-sum alimony payments, however. Even if your former spouse remarries, you must continue making lump-sum alimony payments, because these are based on a specific sum that you promised to pay.
As with remarriage, your former spouse’s continued cohabitation with another romantic interest defeats the purpose of alimony payments. You should be able to stop making alimony payments if you can prove that your former spouse is living with someone else unless the court ordered you to pay lump-sum alimony.
A Specific, Predetermined Event
If you are paying rehabilitative alimony, you should be able to stop making alimony payments once a predetermined event has occurred.
For example, you might agree to make alimony payments until your former spouse has completed a college degree, obtained their GED, or completed vocational training so they will be able to support themselves.
Once that event has occurred, or once it is clear that the event is not going to occur, you should be able to get the family court to terminate your rehabilitative alimony payments.
Change in Circumstances
If there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the court ordered you to pay alimony, you may be able to get the family court to modify its previous order, terminating or reducing your alimony payments.
A change in circumstances is not grounds for the termination of your alimony payments if the court ordered lump sum alimony or reimbursement alimony.
Regardless of the type of alimony ordered by the court, alimony payments terminate upon the death of either party.
What if the Marriage is Declared Void Due to Fraud?
Even in the extremely rare case of a marriage being declared void due to fraud, you must continue making alimony payments unless one of the events listed above has occurred.
SC Code § 20-3-135 says that a “marriage that would otherwise be lawful that is declared void ab initio by reason of fraud, does not relieve the party committing the fraud of the duty to provide spousal support that would have otherwise existed pursuant to Section 20-3-130.”
When You Can Stop Making Alimony Payments Depends on the Type of Alimony
SC Code Section 20-3-130(B) lists five types of alimony that can be awarded in SC. Each of them is designed to accomplish a specific goal, and each has different rules – for some, you can stop making alimony payments based on remarriage, cohabitation, a change in circumstances, or death.
For others, the rules are more restrictive. Before you can determine whether it is possible to stop making alimony payments, you must look at the rules for the type of alimony the court ordered you to pay.
- Periodic alimony will continue until you can demonstrate a change in circumstances, your former spouse’s remarriage, your former spouse’s continued cohabitation, or the death of either party.
- Lump-sum alimony cannot be terminated or modified unless either party dies.
- Rehabilitative alimony will continue until you can demonstrate a change in circumstances, your former spouse’s remarriage, your former spouse’s continued cohabitation, the death of either party, or that a predetermined specific event has happened (the supported spouse obtaining a college degree, for example).
- Reimbursement alimony cannot be terminated based on a change in circumstances, but it can be terminated based on your former spouse’s remarriage, your former spouse’s continued cohabitation, or the death of either party.
- Separate support and maintenance when the parties are not yet divorced follows the same rules as periodic alimony and can be terminated if you can demonstrate a change in circumstances, your former spouse’s remarriage, your former spouse’s continued cohabitation, or the death of either party.
Do Not Stop Making Alimony Payments Until the Court Approves Termination
Except in cases of death, you must continue making alimony payments until the court modifies its previous order.
Your former spouse can file a Rule to Show Cause, asking the court to enforce the previous alimony order, and, even if the court modifies or terminates your alimony payments, you will still be responsible for the payments that you missed before the court made the change.
If you fail to follow a family court order, you can be held in contempt of court and you can be sanctioned by the court with:
- Fines up to $1500,
- Up to a year in jail,
- Up to 300 hours of community service, and
- Payment of your former spouse’s attorney fees and court costs.
If you believe you are no longer required to pay alimony, contact your SC family court lawyer for advice before you stop making payments.
Call your Myrtle Beach divorce attorney at Axelrod and Associates today at 843-353-3449 or fill out our contact form to set up an initial consultation to find out how we can help you to modify or enforce alimony, child support, child custody, or child visitation orders.