Is It Time For Alimony Reform in South Carolina?
Determining an award of alimony in South Carolina is reflective of our all male (misogynist?) legislature.
Courtney recently scored a major victory in a divorce matter that we have been litigating for the past 18 months. We have been playing a game of “cat and mouse” with Wife (we have been representing Husband) trying to catch her with her boyfriend. About 2 weeks ago, Courtney and her investigator got her.
Why did we spend all this time and money (about $10,000) to catch Wife with her boyfriend? Because in South Carolina a spouse who commits adultery is barred from ever receiving alimony. (20-3-130(A) of SC Code of Laws) Our client was facing a permanent alimony obligation due to a long term marriage, and we saved him well in excess of $100,000 in alimony payments.
But is this fair?
If a Husband gets a divorce from his Wife on any other legal basis, such as drunkenness or physical cruelty, she is still entitled to alimony. But if Wife steps outside the marriage only one time, she will be barred for life from alimony. Women are the overwhelming number of alimony recipients, and the only way to view the adultery bar is that it is intended to punish women who have sex with someone other than their husband.
In Courtney’s case, Wife was a stay at home mom during the marriage, she has a high school education, and she raised 4 kids while Husband earned a substantial income to support the family. The kids are doing fine, substantial assets were acquired through their joint efforts, and now Wife needs to get an education and become gainfully employed. Since she had an affair, she is entitled to NO alimony, not even for a short term to help her get through school.
The good news (if there is ever any good news in family court) is that our client agrees with us that Wife is in need of financial support and he is not going to force the mother of his children into poverty. He has agreed to assist her financially for some short period of time until she gets through school. However the evidence Courtney has uncovered will allow her to force a settlement upon her clients terms.
In South Carolina one group is attempting to modernize our laws, South Carolina Alimony Reform. Alimony reform is also a topic in many other states. Not only would reform add a level of certainty to the process, it would also reduce litigation costs. In Courtney’s case, she could have spent her time and our clients money working through a more rational process to provide support for Wife, rather than engaging in the game of “gotcha” in order to be able to force a settlement of the entire case.
A more rational, less litigious process can only better serve the interests of the entire family.