Alimony, also called spousal support in NC, is generally awarded during divorce proceedings as a means to assist a dependent spouse. The State of North Carolina considers a dependent spouse to be one who is substantially dependent on the other spouse for financial support, or maintenance, or in need of maintenance.
Alimony Isn’t Automatically Granted To Either Spouse
To receive alimony, a request must be filed with the North Carolina district court handling the divorce proceedings. The court then looks into the finances and situations of both spouses before deciding on a fair and equitable form of alimony. A family law attorney with The Van Winkle Law Firm can help you file for alimony in any situation. Contact our law firm today.
Lump Sum Alimony
An agreed-to amount of money paid at one time from the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse. It can also take the form of transferring possession or title to real or personal property.
Since most orders are based on a timeframe, modifications can be made as spouses' circumstances change: payment of the original amount must be done after the instruction of a court order, and the change of circumstances must be substantial, such as a loss of employment by the supporting spouse. Lump sum amounts are non-modifiable.
This is a predetermined payment made to the dependent spouse for the remainder of the spouse’s life unless one of the factors for termination of alimony is met.
This type of alimony in NC helps the dependent spouse re-establish their lifestyle after the marriage ends. Though other states recognize a similar form of alimony — rehabilitative alimony — the State of North Carolina does not recognize this.
A temporary form of alimony outlined in North Carolina General Statute 50-16.2A, post-separation support is agreed to monies paid by a supporting spouse to the other spouse. Payments continue during the period of separation until the court makes a final decision. An application may be submitted to the district court at any time during the divorce proceedings. To receive support, the requesting spouse must show:
- The spouses were lawfully married under North Carolina law;
- The spouse requesting support is dependent on the other;
- The supporting spouse has an ability to pay support; and
- The requesting spouse doesn’t have the resources to meet the current living needs.
Post-separation support may also take the form of continued health insurance coverage under the supporting spouse’s current plan. It may also include payment of attorney fees and costs for the dependent spouse.
Factors In Alimony & Spousal Support
North Carolina General Statute 50-16.3A is the primary statute guiding NC alimony laws. It outlines the factors taken into consideration for granting or denying alimony, including:
- The earning capacity and relative earnings by each spouse;
- Age and emotional, mental, and physical condition of each spouse;
- Amount and sources of earned and unearned income, such as investment earnings, dividends, and benefits, including retirement, insurance, Social Security, and medical;
- Any contribution to the education, training, or increased earning power of one spouse by the other;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The education level of each spouse and the amount of time necessary to gain sufficient education and/or training to find employment to meet reasonable economic needs;
- Assets, liabilities, and debt requirements of each spouse, including any legal obligations of support;
- Property owned by either spouse when the marriage began;
- Contributions as a homemaker by one spouse;
- Relative needs of each spouse;
- Federal, state, and local tax impact of awarded alimony;
- Other factors related to the economic circumstances of each spouse found to be just and proper by the court; and
- The court had considered any income previously received by either spouse when determining equitable distribution of divisible or marital property.
NC Courts Consider Marital Misconduct When Awarding Alimony
If either spouse took part in marital misconduct during the marriage, the court considers it as part of the grounds for alimony in NC.
Behavior Toward Spouse
When one spouse behaves negatively toward the other or abandons the marriage, it's considered marital misconduct by the State of North Carolina. Cruel treatment which threatens the life of the other spouse and indignities which make conditions and life difficult and intolerable are other examples of misconduct toward a spouse.
Recklessly spending marital monies or destroying, hiding, or wasting marital assets is considered financial misconduct. These acts are usually done without the knowledge of the other spouse.
Adultery, alcohol and drug abuse, and/or a criminal act that results in the spouses’ separation, such as one spouse is in jail, is considered personal misconduct.
Generally, the court won’t make an award to the dependent spouse if the dependent spouse committed adultery during the marriage, regardless of financial need. Yet, if the supporting spouse was adulterous, they will most likely be ordered to pay. In the case both spouses committed adultery, the final decision for determining spousal support is up to the court.
Waiver Of Alimony
Spouses who have a previous agreement, such as a prenuptial or separation agreement, may waive the right and obligation to alimony and post-separation support. To be legal, the waiver:
- Must be in writing;
- The provision to waive alimony is clearly stated; and
- The contract was signed and acknowledged by both spouses in front of a certifying officer, such as a notary public.
These waivers are generally used when the spouses separate under amicable terms.
Termination Of Alimony
Alimony ends on either a particular date that is set during court proceedings or if:
- Either spouse dies;
- The spouses resume marital relations;
- The dependent spouse remarries; or
- The dependent spouse cohabits with another adult in a romantic relationship.
If any of the listed events happen before the stated end date, alimony payments end on the earlier date.