Our alimony statute, S.C. Code Ann. § 20-3-130(C), repeatedly uses but does not define the term “supported spouse.” We agree with the defendant-Husband that this is merely a descriptive term delineating the person actually receiving alimony. We decline the plaintiff-Wife’s invitation to augment the language of the statute by requiring an alimony recipient to establish that he or she has actively reduced his or her earning capacity in order to support the marriage.
We affirm the Court of Appeals’ decision, which – in order to correct a mathematical error – reduced Husband’s alimony award from $3,000 to $2,700 per month.
We do agree with Wife that our jurisprudence has, at times, overemphasized the standard of living factor in deciding whether to award alimony. This is only one of the 12 statutory factors that shapes an alimony award. In the record before us, there is nothing to suggest that the family court overemphasized this consideration.
We also decline Wife’s invitation to reduce the alimony award further. The family court awarded Husband a smaller share of the marital estate but awarded alimony. Thus, reducing Husband’s alimony award risks unfairly altering the overall balance struck by the family court in reaching its decision.
(Few, J.) The bench and the bar hold two incorrect views of the law of alimony: (1) that there is a “preference” for periodic alimony and (2) that periodic alimony may end only upon the remarriage of the supported spouse, the death of either spouse, or a family court’s determination in a later action that a substantial, unanticipated change in circumstances has occurred.
Our courts’ “preference” for periodic alimony predates the comprehensive amendments to § 20-3-130 in 1990. In light of the array of options now available and the ever-changing family dynamic, I find it inappropriate to recognize any preference for one type of alimony over any other.
Given evidence that Husband’s income is likely to increase, the absence of any evidence that Wife’s income is likely to increase, and the certainty that Husband’s child support obligation will come to an end, the family court should take advantage of the statute’s provision allowing for an alimony award “to be reviewed and revised as circumstances may dictate in the future.”
I would deny alimony altogether. Given that the award will not be reversed, I would reduce the award to $2,000 per month and recommend “review and revision” of the award when the parties’ youngest child turns 18.
Rudick v. Rudick (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-032-22, 16 pp.) (Kaye Hearn, J.) (John Few, J., dissenting) Appealed from Darlington County Family Court (Cely Anne Brigman, J.) On writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals. Gregory Samuel Forman and Karl Huggins Smith for petitioner; Marian Dawn Nettles and Kevin Mitchell Barth for respondent. S.C. S. Ct.