How does retirement affect alimony?

In 2012 South Carolina amended the alimony modification statute, S.C. Code § 20-3-170(B), to include specific factors for the family court to consider on whether to modify or terminate alimony when a supporting spouse retires. Those factors are:

(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.

This code section, and the case of Smith v. Smith, 359 S.C. 393, 597 S.E.2d 188 (Ct.App.2004), authorize a request to modify or terminate alimony based upon retirement to be brought on a motion in the original case, although Smith suggests “filing a new action for a modification may be preferable.” Certainly when the supporting spouse wishes to develop evidence to support the modification claim, or when factual disputes are likely, a new action is advisable. If the supporting spouse wishes to modify or terminate alimony prior to trial, a motion for temporary relief can always accompany the new action.

As of April 17, 2015, no reported South Carolina cases interpret S.C. Code § 20-3-170(B).

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