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Court of Appeals recognizes Wife’s earning capacity and reverses permanent periodic alimony award

In an unpublished opinion issued on May 15, 2019, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling in Gillmann v. Gillmann that had awarded our appellate client’s wife permanent periodic alimony in the amount of $2,000.00 each month. In so doing, the Court found “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.” In setting aside the permanent alimony award, the Court “acknowledge[d] permanent periodic alimony is the preferred form,” yet concluded “the facts and considering the statutory factors” justified only an 18 month award of alimony in this case, where the wife lost her job earning approximately $73,000 annually just weeks prior to the final hearing.

As to other issues in this case where both parties appealed, the Court found the family court:

  • did not abuse its discretion in allowing husband to use a vocational expert to impute income or reasonably anticipated earnings to wife;
  • erred in valuing a lot at the stipulated date of filing value when husband later sold the lot for a loss prior to the final hearing;
  • did not err in finding husband’s aircraft that was purchased during the marriage in exchange for other nonmartial property was nonmarital;
  • did not err in excluding the proposed settlement agreement wife attempted to introduce into evidence in support of her contention that husband considered his aircraft to be a marital asset;
  • did not err in apportioning the marital estate equally between the parties; and
  • did not err in awarding $10,000 in attorney fees to wife where wife was seeking in excess of $50,000 in attorney fees.

Overall this was a fantastic result for Mr. Gillmann, and a rare South Carolina case overturning an award of permanent alimony. Results vary from case to case, but today I could not be happier for our client.



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