Hawley v. Hawley, Opinion No. 3957 (SC 3/7/2005), Opinion No. 3957.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtGoolsby
PartiesRichard R. Hawley, Appellant, v. Fran T. Hawley, Respondent.
Docket NumberOpinion No. 3957.
Decision Date07 March 2005

Page 1

Richard R. Hawley, Appellant,
v.
Fran T. Hawley, Respondent.
Opinion No. 3957.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard January 11, 2005.
Filed March 7, 2005.

Appeal From Florence County Wylie H. Caldwell, Jr., Family Court Judge

AFFIRMED

Evander G. Jeffords, of Florence and John S. Nichols, of Columbia, for Appellant.

James C. Cox, Jr., of Hartsville, for Respondent.

GOOLSBY, J.:


In this divorce action, Richard R. Hawley (Husband) appeals the award of alimony to Fran T. Hawley (Wife). We affirm.

FACTS

The parties married in October 1999. At the time of the marriage, Wife was employed at Certified Laboratories earning approximately $28,000.00 per year. The parties purchased a home in Florence County that served as the marital residence. Wife's son from a prior marriage lived with them at the home. Wife ceased working outside the home; however, she retained ownership of the home in which she lived before the marriage and used it as rental property.

A few years later, the parties separated. On February 7, 2003, Husband filed this action for separate support and maintenance. Wife filed an answer and counterclaim on March 5, 2003, and amended her pleadings on March 13, 2003. On April 4, 2003, the parties consented to a temporary order providing in part that Wife was to have, pendente lite, sole use and possession of the marital residence and Husband was to pay certain obligations associated with the home, including the mortgage, insurance, and real property taxes. In addition, Husband was to pay Wife $650.00 per month to maintain power, water, and essential services for the home.

Husband's financial declarations indicated he had a gross monthly income of $8,835.57 and a net monthly income of $5,516.75. The declaration indicated the mortgage on the marital home was $1,066.06 per month. Wife's financial declaration indicated her main source of income was the $650.00 from Husband pursuant to the temporary order. The parties had significant property, both marital and non-marital, with Husband owning a substantial non-marital retirement account.

The family court granted the divorce based upon Husband's post-separation adultery, divided the marital property, and required the sale of the marital residence.1 The court also found Wife was unemployed and might need additional training prior to being able to find employment. The court attributed the parties' comfortable lifestyle to Husband's earnings. Finally, the court concluded: "A reasonable alimony payment of $1500.00 per month plus her equitable division award should enable her to support herself reasonably, until she finds employment. At that time, upon proper pleadings, the court can adjust the alimony as necessary."

Husband moved to amend the order with respect to the alimony award. He asserted the claim for alimony was not properly or fairly raised in the amended answer and the facts of the case did not justify an alimony award. The family court denied the motion, and this appeal followed.

LAW/ANALYSIS

1. Husband contends the award of alimony was improper because Wife failed to raise the claim in her pleadings and never specifically articulated her request for this relief during the trial. In support of this argument, he notes that Wife's amended answer and counterclaim differed from her initial responsive pleadings only in that it added a claim for divorce on the ground of adultery and requested alimony in the prayer for relief. We find Husband's argument unavailing.

In Harris v. Harris,2 the South Carolina Supreme Court found a general prayer for alimony was not sufficient notice of a claim to support a default judgment for lump-sum alimony. In so holding, however, the court stated that "ordinarily a family court would have authority to direct payment of alimony . . . under a general prayer for such relief" and further explained that, because the respondent failed to plead special facts and circumstances justifying an award of lump-sum alimony, her general prayer for alimony was insufficient to support such an award upon a default judgment.3

In the present case, Wife sets forth some basic facts to support a claim of alimony, such as leaving her job and her inability to support herself. Additionally, her prayer for relief includes a request for "support and alimony, both pendente lite and permanently." We agree with Wife the request in her prayer for relief was sufficient to place Husband on notice that she was requesting alimony. In contrast to Harris, this case did not involve a default judgment. Rather, both sides actively participated in the litigation and had the opportunity to present evidence in opposition to each...

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