What is Alimony in North Carolina?
Alimony is money paid from the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse after a divorce. The money is meant to ease the transition and to help the dependent spouse keep the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage. The amount and duration of alimony depends on a variety of factors. There is no “set formula” for alimony, but rather calculations that are generally accepted by the court to be reasonable amounts. For this reason, it is important to hire a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney.
Post-Separation Support vs Alimony
There are two types of spousal support that a dependent spouse may receive – post-separation support and alimony. Post-separation support is temporary. It is designed to provide for the dependent spouse’s support until a final order of alimony is created. An award of post-separation support automatically ceases upon the entry of an award of permanent alimony.
Alimony awarded by the Court to the dependent spouse can be paid either in a lump sum or in payments over a specified (or indefinite) period of time. Despite the use of the word “permanent,” an award of permanent alimony does not necessarily last forever. The Court has the discretion to order payment of permanent alimony for only a limited time period.
The Dependent Spouse vs Supporting Spouse
The court will award spousal support only to the dependent spouse. Dependency is based on whether he or she earns sufficient income to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage because of the loss of the other spouse’s income.
15 Factors the Court Considers in Deciding Alimony
There are several factors that the court will consider in deciding the amount and duration of spousal support and alimony.
These factors include:
- Relative earnings and earning capacities
- Age and physical, mental, and emotional condition
- Amount and sources of earned and unearned income of both spouses. This includes but is not limited to earnings, dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security, or others
- Duration of the marriage
- The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse.
The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of the minor child.
- The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage.
The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to get enough education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs.
The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support.
- Property brought to the marriage by either spouse
- The contribution of a spouse as homemaker
- The relative needs of the spouses
- The federal, state and local tax ramifications of the alimony award
Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper.
The Court has wide discretion to determine the amount and duration of alimony, which makes it difficult to predict with accuracy. Although the Court’s discretion is broad, the Court must strive to be fair to both parties. If a Judge finds that the supporting spouse is deliberately depressing his or her income, it can base an award on capacity to earn rather than actual earnings.
Alimony Based on Marital Misconduct
While North Carolina does not take marital misconduct into consideration for divorce proceedings, it can play a big role in alimony calculations. Marital misconduct within a marriage can be an automatic approval or denial of alimony for the dependent or supporting spouse. Consult with your family law attorney to find out how marital misconduct can affect your spousal support case.
Marital misconduct can include any of the following actions during the marriage or prior to the date of separation:
- Illicit sexual behavior.
- Involuntary separation of the spouses in consequence of a criminal act committed prior to the proceeding in which alimony is sought;
- Abandonment of the other spouse;
- Malicious turning out-of-doors of the other spouse;
- Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse;
- Indignities rendering the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;
- Reckless spending of the income of either party, or the destruction, waste, diversion, or concealment of assets;
- Excessive use of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;
- Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence according to one’s means and condition so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome.
How long does alimony last in North Carolina? When will alimony payments stop?
Alimony in North Carolina does not have to be indefinite. The length of time that a supporting spouse is required to pay alimony usually depends on the factors that determine alimony eligibility. In most cases, the court will award alimony for the duration of half the length of the marriage. For example, if a couple was married for 10 years, the dependent spouse would get 5 years of alimony. But, the court may deviate from this at anytime depending on the circumtances of each spouse.
Alimony payments will stop on the date that is written in the court order. Otherwise, payments will stop when one of the following events occur:
- When the receiving spouse gets remarried;
- When the receiving spouse moves in with someone in a marriage-like relationship;
- When either spouse passes away.
How is alimony paid?
Alimony payments can be made in a couple different ways. The supporting spouse may decide to pay the alimony in a lump sum payment. Or, they can choose to pay it in periodic payments or through income withholding. In addition, alimony can also be paid through a transfer of title or possession of personal property and an interest in property, a security interest in or possession of real property. Alimony that is not paid as a lump sum can be modified by showing a “substantial change in circumstances.”
Negotiating Alimony in North Carolina
Don’t settle for less than you deserve and don’t pay more than you can afford. At Dummit Fradin, our family law attorneys will help you determine what is fair in your situation. They’ll carefully review the details of your divorce or separation agreement and help you negotiate the appropriate spousal support. Contact us today to speak with an attorney near you in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, or High Point.
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