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Domestic Relations – Alimony – Civil Practice – Consent Order – Res Judicata 

When the parties entered into an October 2018 consent order to retroactively terminate the plaintiff-Father’s alimony obligation as of July 2018, there was another action pending requiring Father to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for disobeying the parties’ divorce decree by failing to increase his alimony payments to the defendant-Mother after the parties’ younger child graduated from high school in 2012. Res judicata did not bar the separate action. 

We affirm the family court’s order requiring Father to pay an alimony arrearage of $13,800.  

The October consent order clearly sets forth the parties’ intent to establish the end date for Father’s alimony obligation, but it is silent as to Father’s alimony arrearage. It does not contain language addressing the arrearage nor does it contain language indicating that the parties agreed to forgive it. Further, the Consent Order does not address the separate pending rule to show cause. Therefore, we find the family court did not err in ordering Father to pay the alimony arrearage. 

Father argues the family court erred in requiring him to pay alimony arrearages because Mother did not petition the family court to formally end her child support obligation. Father asserts the family court had no basis to determine it was reasonable to conclude Daughter’s emancipation terminated Mother’s child support obligation. Father’s argument is without merit. 

In domestic matters, the family court has exclusive jurisdiction: “To make all orders for support run until further order of the court, except that orders for child support run until the child turns eighteen years of age . . . or past the age of eighteen years if the child is enrolled and still attending high school, not to exceed high school graduation . . . .” S.C. Code Ann. § 63-3-530(A)(17). Under the express terms of the statute, a parent’s obligation to pay child support does not require further court order to terminate and ends by operation of law when a child turns eighteen or graduates from high school. Because Mother’s child support obligation terminated by operation of law when the parties’ daughter graduated from high school in 2012, Father’s alimony payment amount increased to the full $1,000 at that time. 


Fickling v. Fickling (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-030-22, 6 pp.) (Per Curiam) Appealed from Dorchester County Family Court (William Wylie, J.) Julio Rossington and Brett Lamb Stevens for appellant; William Clifford for respondent. S.C. App. Unpub. 

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