Support and Alimony FAQ

Questions about support and alimony are common during divorce proceedings in North Carolina. Many people going through divorce wonder who qualifies for alimony, how it is calculated, and when it ends. Below are some frequently asked questions and straightforward answers about support and alimony in North Carolina.

What Qualifies You for Alimony in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a spouse can qualify for alimony if they earn less than the other spouse and need financial support. The court looks at each spouse’s earnings, their standard of living during the marriage, and their ability to pay bills after it. If one spouse cannot maintain their lifestyle without help and the other can afford to provide support, the court may award alimony. 

How Is Spousal Support Calculated in North Carolina?

Calculating spousal support, or alimony, involves a detailed evaluation by the court of various aspects of both spouses’ lives and their marriage. Here are the factors the court considers to determine the amount, duration, and manner of alimony payments:

  • Marital Misconduct: The court considers any wrongful behavior by either spouse during the marriage, such as infidelity or abuse. This behavior can influence the court’s decision to award alimony and the amount.
  • Earnings and Capacities: Each spouse’s relative income and earning potential play a crucial role. If one spouse earns significantly less or has a lower earning capacity, they could be entitled to alimony.
  • Health and Age: The physical, mental, and emotional health of both spouses must also be accounted for. The court might award a spouse in poor health or at an advanced age more support.
  • Income and Benefits: All sources of income are relevant, including salaries, dividends, and benefits like retirement accounts and social security.
  • Length of Marriage: Typically, the longer the marriage, the more likely the court will award alimony, particularly if one spouse became financially dependent on the other over many years.
  • Contributions to Earning Power: If one spouse helped the other become more financially stable by supporting their education or career development, this sacrifice on their part will factor into alimony considerations.
  • Child Custody Effects: One spouse’s duty to care for minor children and how it affects their ability to earn a living will impact the court’s alimony considerations.
  • Lifestyle During Marriage: The standard of living established during the marriage sets a benchmark for what the court might consider a reasonable alimony amount after divorce.
  • Education and Employment Training: The court looks at each spouse’s education level and how long it might take for the dependent spouse to get enough training and find a job that meets their economic needs.
  • Assets and Debts: The court examines each spouse’s financial status, including assets they brought into the marriage and their current liabilities and debts.
  • Homemaker Contributions: The court evaluates contributions either spouse made as a homemaker during the marriage and considers these contributions in its alimony decision.
  • Financial Needs: The court compares the actual needs of each spouse for maintaining a basic standard of living after divorce.
  • Tax Implications: The court considers the tax implications of any potential alimony payments to balance the overall financial burden fairly.
  • Other Economic Factors: The court also accounts for any other financial aspects it deems relevant in its decision-making.

What Stops Alimony in North Carolina?

One major reason alimony could stop in North Carolina is if the receiving spouse remarries. If a dependent spouse gets married again, the law requires that alimony payments cease immediately. Similarly, alimony will also end if the dependent spouse starts living with another adult in a relationship that is similar to a marriage, known as cohabitation. This includes both heterosexual and homosexual relationships where the couple shares a home and life responsibilities like married partners would.

Another situation that stops alimony is the death of either spouse. If the person paying or receiving alimony passes away, the payments are no longer necessary and thus terminate.

Either spouse can also request a modification or end to alimony payments if there are significant changes in either party’s financial circumstances. This could include a loss of job, a new disability, or any other financial change that impacts the supporting spouse’s ability to pay or the recipient spouse’s need.

What Is a Spouse Entitled to in a Divorce in North Carolina?

In a North Carolina divorce, each spouse is entitled to an equitable distribution of marital property. This means the court divides all property and assets acquired during the marriage fairly, but not always equally, between the spouses. 

Each spouse keeps their separate property, which includes assets they owned before marriage or received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. Marital property includes all the assets and debts either spouse acquired during the marriage up to the date of separation, excluding separate property. Crucially, property that may have been separate at the time of marriage can become marital property if it becomes commingled. For example, if one spouse came into the marriage with a savings account that the other spouse subsequently had access to, that account and the money in it would likely be considered marital property. 

The court first identifies which assets are marital property and which are separate. Then, it considers various factors to decide how to divide the marital property. These factors include each spouse’s earnings, debts, and future needs. The court also looks at how long the marriage lasted and the role each spouse played in the marriage, such as who managed the finances or took care of the home.

The goal of equitable division is to ensure both spouses leave the marriage on fair and stable economic grounds. This system aims to make the financial outcome of the divorce as balanced and just as possible for both parties involved.

How Long Does a Spouse Have to Pay Alimony in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the duration of alimony payments varies based on the type of support awarded and the circumstances of the divorce. Post-separation support, also known as temporary alimony, lasts for a limited period. The supporting spouse can stop paying temporary alimony when the end date specified in the support order arrives, or the judge issues a final decision on alimony or finalizes the divorce.

For post-divorce alimony, the judge usually includes a specific duration for periodic payments or income withholding in their order. Generally, alimony is designed to provide temporary support to help the recipient spouse become financially independent after the divorce. However, in cases where the marriage was long or where the dependent spouse faces obstacles like age or disability that prevent them from becoming self-sufficient, the judge may grant alimony indefinitely. This flexibility allows the court to tailor alimony payments to the specific needs and situations of the individuals involved.

How Long Is Alimony Paid in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the time period during which one ex-spouse must pay alimony to the other ex-spouse depends on circumstances such as the length of the marriage and whether the receiving ex-spouse decides to remarry.

Contact a Divorce and Alimony Attorney in North Carolina

If you still have questions about alimony or need help with your divorce case in North Carolina, contact the team at Greenwood Law today. Our team is ready to guide you through the legal process and explore your options. Call (336) 554-7881 now to arrange your initial consultation session.