Heard June 3, 2015.
Appeal From Lexington County. Michelle M. Hurley, Family Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2013-002326.
Jean Perrin Derrick, of Lexington, for Appellant.
Max Nathan Pickelsimer, of Warner Payne & Black, LLP, of Columbia, for Respondent.
KONDUROS, J. THOMAS and GEATHERS, JJ., concur.
Yancey Roof (Wife) appeals the family court's alimony award, contending it erred in reducing her previously modified award and in requiring her to pay back, via offset of her attorney's fees award, the overpayment of alimony she received during the pendency of this case on remand. We affirm as modified.
Wife and Kenneth Steele (Husband) married in 1993. Wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2000, and the parties separated in 2004 resulting in a 2006 divorce. During the marriage, Wife worked as an employee at a frame shop that she and Husband eventually purchased with a partner. Husband worked for Blue Cross and Blue Shield and at the time of the divorce, earned
approximately $60,000 per year. Wife worked in the frame shop and was earning $16,800 annually. The parties agreed Husband would pay Wife $300 per month in alimony and maintain health insurance on her through his employer at a cost of $87 per month. Wife also received child support for the parties' two children. After two years, Husband's employer stopped permitting ex-spouses to be covered on its health insurance plan. Wife petitioned the family court for a modification in her alimony based on the change in circumstances, primarily her lack of insurance coverage, and the expense for getting coverage while suffering from MS. Other changes in circumstances included a decrease in Wife's earnings, an increase in Husband's earnings, and the discontinuation of $200 per month in child support based on the children's majority.
The family court increased Wife's alimony to $1,547.65. The family court tied the award to the cost of Wife's insurance coverage. Husband appealed, and this court reversed and remanded, indicating although the change in circumstances warranted an increase in Wife's alimony, the agreement between the parties did not mandate that alimony be tied directly to the cost of health insurance. See Roof v. Steele, 396 S.C. 373, 389, 720 S.E.2d 910, 919 (2011).
On remand, Wife testified her most recent annual earnings at the frame shop were $12,000 and the partner with whom she operated the frame shop had retired. The frame shop operated approximately thirty-eight hours per week, and Wife stated she had to stay longer sometimes to complete her work. She indicated her health is " OK" and she does not like to think of herself as disabled. However, she also described her current physical and emotional condition as " a wreck" and admitted working is " challenging." She further testified she suffers from " optic neuritis a lot in [her] eyes, extreme fatigue, and massive headaches." She provided she had lost a lot of sensation on the right side of her body and indicated it " doesn't function very well." This lessening in function affected her ability to do some of the fine manual framing work as quickly. Additionally, her condition made her depressed. She testified she did not believe she could keep a job other than running the frame shop because she needs to be able to work at her own pace and thus, she has not sought other employment. Wife stated she has gone to the Social Security website using her smartphone and completed a ...