My Spouse Got a Raise at Work: Can I Get Child Support and Alimony Modified?

If you have a court order that provides for either child support or alimony payments in South Carolina, this is considered the final decision by the judge that cannot be changed without an appeal. However, child support and most alimony awards are modifiable if circumstances substantially change. For example, if an ex-spouse earns more money than they were making at the time of the original award, it may be possible to request a modification of child support or alimony.

What You Need to Know About Alimony Payments

Not all alimony payments in South Carolina can be modified by the courts. There are several types of alimony awarded in this state. These include:

  • Permanent, periodic. This is the most common type of alimony award, wherein one spouse pays the other a set amount each month for an indefinite period, ending only when either spouse dies or the payee spouse remarries or lives with a romantic partner for 90 days or more.  This type of alimony is modifiable or terminable based on a substantial change in circumstances.
  • Lump sum. This is an alimony award that comes in a defined payment amount, or a lump sum. For example, where a spouse is ordered to pay $50,000 the day the judge signs the divorce decree. Lump sum payments may also be paid in regular installments until the full amount is paid, i.e. a spouse pays $2,000 per month for 25 months to satisfy a $50,000 lump sum award.  Unless otherwise specified, this type of alimony is NOT modifiable.
  • Reimbursement. The courts may order one spouse to reimburse the other for financial sacrifices made during the marriage. For example, assume you agreed to forego college and work full-time while your spouse attended school. Not only did you support the family but you also paid a portion of your spouse’s college tuition. It would not be unreasonable for the courts to order your spouse to reimburse you at least a portion of those costs.  Because this type of alimony serves to make the supported spouse whole, it is NOT generally modifiable.
  • Rehabilitation. This type of alimony is payable for a limited time, intended to help a newly-divorced spouse re-establish themselves as a single provider. For example, where a supported spouse gave up a career or forewent finishing school to support the paying spouse’s career, rehabilitation alimony may be awarded for a finite period to enable the supported spouse to finish school or obtain additional training or certifications to be able to be financially independent. This type of alimony may be modifiable under certain circumstances, but given its short-term nature it would require proof of unanticipated, extenuating circumstances to do so.

When are Divorce Payment Modifications Appropriate?

Whether you are getting child support payments, alimony, or both, seeking a modification is not a request you should take lightly. The court requires that there be a substantial change in circumstances for at least one of the two parties to the agreement. If your spouse received a raise at work, for example, it would need to be a rather large one to justify this action. 

Seeking a modification without being able to substantiate the claim could be seen as a nuisance by the courts. It’s important to note that, as the person filing the request, it will be your job to submit evidence. Just hearing a rumor that a spouse received a raise is not sufficient. You will need to have documentation to back up your claims since the courts won’t consider a request without evidence.

All that being said, there are some valid reasons for requesting a modification (an increase or decrease) of child support or alimony. These include:

  • A substantial change in the paying spouse’s income, including the loss of a job and retirement (though the reason for a job loss will be scrutinized);
  • A substantial change in the receiving spouse’s income (including job loss, the reason for which will be scrutinized); and
  • For child support, significant changes in the cost of health insurance for the children or daycare expenses (including if daycare is no longer needed).

Recent Developments Concerning Alimony Payments

Even if an ex-spouse obtained a pay raise and you can prove it, requesting a modification may not always work out in your favor. According to a recent appeals case (Woods v. Woods), the courts will look at the entirety of both party’s circumstances during a modification hearing, the same as they did when the original order was entered. In other words, an ex-spouse that requests increased payments will open up her financial records for review as well.

Speak with a South Carolina Family Law Attorney About Modifications

Requesting modifications to court orders can be a complex process. If you believe this is in your best interests, it would make sense to work with an experienced South Carolina family law attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected during this process. At Cate & Brough Law Firm, we have extensive experience with all types family legal matters throughout the Spartanburg area. We’d be happy to review your current situation and advise you of your legal rights and options. Contact us today at 864-585-4226 to schedule an initial consultation.

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Cate & Brough, P.A.

At Cate & Brough, we all have personal experience with family law and family court. We know more than just what the law says about your issue – we know what you are going through.

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