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Do you have to continue paying alimony after retirement?
You might – retirement alone is not enough to modify your alimony order, but the family court can modify alimony based on a change in circumstances or a change in the financial ability of the spouse making the alimony payments.
In this article, we will look at:
When do you have to keep paying alimony after retirement, and when can you get your alimony payments reduced?
SC Code § 20-3-170(A) authorizes the family court to decrease, increase, or terminate alimony payments based on changed circumstances and the financial ability of the supporting spouse:
(A) Whenever any husband or wife, pursuant to a judgment of divorce from the bonds of matrimony, has been required to make his or her spouse any periodic payments of alimony and the circumstances of the parties or the financial ability of the spouse making the periodic payments shall have changed since the rendition of such judgment, either party may apply to the court which rendered the judgment for an order and judgment decreasing or increasing the amount of such alimony payments or terminating such payments and the court, after giving both parties an opportunity to be heard and to introduce evidence relevant to the issue, shall make such order and judgment as justice and equity shall require, with due regard to the changed circumstances and the financial ability of the supporting spouse, decreasing or increasing or confirming the amount of alimony provided for in such original judgment or terminating such payments. Thereafter the supporting spouse shall pay and be liable to pay the amount of alimony payments directed in such order and judgment and no other or further amount and such original judgment, for the purpose of all actions or proceedings of every nature and wherever instituted, whether within or without this State, shall be deemed to be and shall be modified accordingly, subject in every case to a further proceeding or proceedings under the provisions of this section in relation to such modified judgment.
As with requests to modify child support orders, however, a change in circumstances may or may not be sufficient to justify the court’s modification of an original alimony order…
Doesn’t the loss in income when a person retires justify a court order that you do not have to pay alimony after retirement, though? Or, at least, that your alimony should be reduced?
It depends. Not everyone’s income is reduced after retirement, for one thing.
Retirement alone is not a sufficient change in circumstances to justify an alimony modification, but retirement is enough to get a hearing where the family court will decide whether there is a sufficient change in circumstances.
SC Code § 20-3-170(B) says:
(B) Retirement by the supporting spouse is sufficient grounds to warrant a hearing, if so moved by a party, to evaluate whether there has been a change of circumstances for alimony. The court shall consider the following factors:
(1) whether retirement was contemplated when alimony was awarded;
(2) the age of the supporting spouse;
(3) the health of the supporting spouse;
(4) whether the retirement is mandatory or voluntary;
(5) whether retirement would result in a decrease in the supporting spouse’s income; and
(6) any other factors the court sees fit.
If the supporting spouse retires from employment, the retirement was not contemplated when the alimony was first awarded, the supporting spouse is elderly or in poor health, the retirement was mandatory, the retirement causes a decrease in the supporting spouse’s income, and if any other factors can be proven that support a reduction in alimony, then the family court may find that there is a sufficient change in circumstances to justify modifying the alimony order.
When you are preparing for your court hearing -whether it is your divorce case, an action to determine alimony or child support, or an action in the family court to modify a previous alimony or child support order, be thorough with your financial declarations and be honest.
Misrepresentations in the amount of your income, expenses, or assets are one thing that is sure to prejudice the family court against you and cause you to lose your case.
For example, in Downing v. Downing, the husband asked the family court to reduce his alimony payments based on a change in circumstances – his reduced income after retirement.
The husband argued that he should pay a reduced alimony amount after retirement (the original amount of alimony was $3500/month). At trial, however, the family court discovered that the wife’s attorney had to go to great lengths to discover the husband’s actual income which was not reported on his financial disclosures.
The Court found that:
The Court found that “Husband portrayed a very misleading financial picture… to the [family] court,” did not modify the husband’s alimony payments, and ordered him to pay $42,000 in attorney fees and costs.
If you believe a change in circumstances will justify an alimony modification, or if your former spouse is seeking an alimony modification, call your SC alimony lawyer at Axelrod and Associates for a consultation.
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