When people think of “alimony,” they usually think of an antiquated stereotype wherein a husband pays his wife and/or the stay-at-home mother of his children monthly alimony payments indefinitely after divorce. In the modern iteration, alimony can financially assist any gender spouse who was not the primary income-earner during marriage if that spouse is unable to meet his or her reasonable financial needs without the other spouse’s income or if that spouse is unable to maintain the same standard of living to which he or she became accustomed during the marriage. Alimony requires a needs-based assessment in North Carolina– you are only entitled to alimony if you need it (the dependent spouse), and your spouse has the ability to pay (the supporting spouse).
Alimony is not mandatory or automatic in North Carolina. Even if you are entitled to alimony, you might not want to take money from your spouse but would rather make your own way financially. If you are the primary income-earner, you might truly desire to pay alimony to help your lower income-earning spouse get on his or her feet financially post-divorce. You might need alimony payments to act as a bridge until you are able to get a job, earn an income again after being a stay-at-home parent, or for maintaining the same standard of living you were accustomed to during marriage. Alimony duration, amount, manner of payment, or whether it is paid at all, depends on each person’s individual situation.
Types of Spousal Support
There are two types of spousal support in North Carolina.
Duration of Alimony
In North Carolina, there is no formula to determine the duration of alimony. The Alimony statute states that the court “shall exercise its discretion in determining the amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony,” (N.C.G.S. § 50-16.3A). For long-term marriages in North Carolina, we commonly see clients agreeing to (or judges ordering) monthly alimony payments for approximately half of the duration of the marriage in years. This is not a hard and fast rule or requirement, but is something that commonly occurs. For example, if you were married for twenty years, monthly alimony payments might be continuing for ten years after the date of divorce. For marriages that are not as long-term, the alimony duration would likely be shorter.
Amount of Alimony
In North Carolina, there is no formula to determine the amount of alimony either, as it is at the discretion of the court (if you are in front of a judge) or incumbent upon the spouses to agree to the amount based upon the reasonable needs of the dependent spouse and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. When considering the alimony amount, it is important to analyze each spouse’s income and budget. The monthly alimony payment amount should never exceed the funds the primary income-earning spouse has left over after he or she pays their own reasonable and necessary bills at the end of each month.
Manner of Payment of Alimony
Alimony payments can be paid by lump sum payment, periodic payments (usually monthly installments), income withholding, by transfer of title or possession of personal property, or by security interest in or possession of real property (N.C.G.S. § 50-16.7).
Factors that Affect Alimony
The North Carolina alimony statute defines sixteen factors to be considered when determining the amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony. The factors are listed as follows.
Cheating (or Marital Misconduct) Affects Alimony
If you are the dependent spouse seeking alimony, but the supporting spouse has evidence you had an affair, you are barred from receiving alimony. On the other hand, if you are the supporting spouse, you committed adultery, and your spouse has evidence of the affair, you will likely be required to pay alimony.
Alimony is a complex and nuanced issue. If you need direction regarding whether you are entitled to alimony or you think you might be required to pay alimony, please reach out to our office to schedule a consultation.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC