Unpublished Court of Appeals opinion does the unprecedented

Posted Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Alimony/Spousal Support, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, South Carolina Appellate Decisions, South Carolina Specific

For the 25 years I have been practicing family law no published South Carolina appellate opinion has approved an award of rehabilitative alimony. While I only began reading unpublished opinions in 2004, I cannot recall any such unpublished opinions. I certainly cannot recall any opinion in which an appellate court reversed an award of permanent periodic alimony and awarded rehabilitative alimony instead.

Thus the May 15, 2019 Court of Appeals opinion in Gillmann v. Gillmann is unprecedented. Further the Gillmann opinion offers only opaque justification for this reversal:

We find the family court erred in awarding Wife permanent periodic alimony, and we award Wife alimony of $2,000 per month for eighteen months from the date of divorce. There was compelling evidence that, given her impressive experience and marketable skills in the banking industry, Wife would be able to find suitable employment at a significant salary within this eighteen month period.

We acknowledge permanent periodic alimony is the preferred form, but based on our review of the facts and considering the statutory factors, we find an alimony award of $2,000 per month to Wife for eighteen months is just and equitable in this case.

Citations omitted.

Perhaps Wife has “impressive experience and marketable skills in the banking industry” that would have enabled her to maintain the marital lifestyle within eighteen months of the divorce–a time period that elapsed on February 9, 2018. However the Gillmann opinion fails to substantiate this claim. Given how unusual it is for the South Carolina appellate courts to approve rehabilitative alimony–and it being even more unusual to reverse an award of permanent periodic alimony to reach this result–a more thorough explanation is certainly justified.

…And if ever a family law appeal justified a petition for certiorari–after the required petition for rehearingGillmann is it.

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