Charlotte Spousal Support Attorneys

Alimony in North Carolina Divorces

In the past, alimony, more familiarly known as spousal support, was a very common part of most divorces. Traditionally, the husband worked, and the wife stayed at home to care for the kids and do the housework. 

In this dynamic, a wife would need to rely on her husband for spousal support as she, typically, did not have any other means of generating an income.

For that reason, most husbands who sought divorce had to pay both spousal support and child support. Even if both parties did not have children, the husband might still need to pay spousal support to his ex-wife for the rest of her life, unless she remarried, got a job, or came into money of her own.

Today, both husbands and wives tend to have jobs, and often similar incomes, so spousal support is not always necessary in most divorce cases. However, there are still marriages where one party is the stay-at-home parent and, as a result, may have less job experience and transferable skills than his/her spouse. 

Also, there could be a discrepancy in income if both spouses work but one is paid at a much higher rate than the other. This spouse could be at a disadvantage when it comes to paying bills and maintaining the lifestyle he/she has become accustomed to.

To learn more about alimony in North Carolina, contact our Charlotte spousal support lawyers online or call us at (704) 286-0570.

What is Alimony?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, refers to the financial support one spouse may be required to pay to the other during and/or after a divorce or separation. In North Carolina, alimony is not an automatic right, and whether it is awarded depends on various factors. If awarded, the purpose of alimony is to address any economic disparity between the spouses.

How To Determine Spousal Support

Stack of hundred dollar bills and a note that says "alimony" tied together with a rubber band.

Judges have broad discretion when determining spousal support. Before a judge decides, he/she will want to know if either spouse committed illicit sexual behavior during the marriage or before the couple’s date of separation. 

If the dependent spouse is found guilty, he/she will deny spousal support. If the supporting spouse is found guilty, the judge will immediately award spousal support.

If there are no illicit sexual acts to consider, the court will determine spousal support based on but not limited to the following factors:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • Marital misconduct (abandonment, abuse, alcoholism, substance abuse, etc.)
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • The martial standard of living
  • The sources of income for each spouse
  • Whether one spouse contributed to the other’s education
  • The property owned by each spouse

Alimony Options After a Divorce

A divorce impacts nearly every aspect of your life. And after your divorce is finalized, you may find yourself in a financial situation you never expected to be in. Though not everyone qualifies for spousal support, it is a viable option for many people. Depending on your and your ex-spouse’s financial situation, you may qualify for one of the below support options.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is typically given to a former spouse for a short period of time. 

The goal of this type of alimony is to provide the receiving party with the funds necessary for them to become self-sufficient. Most often, money received for rehabilitative alimony needs to be put towards obtaining a skill, education, or employment. Either after a designated period of time or once the receiver is self-sufficient, alimony payments are stopped.

Lump-Sum Alimony

Asset division is rarely an even 50/50 split. Often, lump-sum alimony is a one-time payment given to one party in lieu of a property settlement.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony is support given from one former spouse to another until one party passes away or the receiving spouse remarries. To qualify for permanent alimony, the Courts will look at a few different things, like when you got married, how long you were married for, your earning capacity throughout the marriage, and both spouses’ finances.

Temporary Alimony

If a couple separates but isn’t formally divorced yet, temporary alimony may be granted. Just like all other forms of alimony payments, temporary support can be adjusted over time and depending on changing circumstances.

Modifying Spousal Support in NC

In North Carolina, spousal support (alimony) may be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances that justifies a modification. Common examples of changes in circumstances that may warrant spousal support modification include:

  • Loss of Employment: If the supporting spouse experiences a significant and involuntary loss of employment, it may be grounds for seeking a modification of spousal support.
  • Change in Income: A substantial decrease or increase in the income of either spouse may be considered a change in circumstances. This could result from factors such as a job change, promotion, or career change.
  • Health Issues: A decline in the health of either spouse that affects their ability to work or support themselves may be considered a change in circumstances.
  • Retirement: If the supporting spouse retires, there may be grounds for modifying spousal support. However, this depends on the specific circumstances and whether retirement was foreseeable at the time of the original support order.
  • Remarriage or Cohabitation: If the supported spouse remarries or begins cohabitating in a marriage-like relationship with a new partner, it may be a basis for terminating or modifying spousal support.
  • Changes in Living Expenses: Significant changes in the living expenses of either spouse, such as a major increase in healthcare costs or housing expenses, may be considered when seeking a modification.
  • Duration of Support: If spousal support was initially ordered for a specific duration (durational alimony) and that duration has expired, it may be a basis for modification or termination.
  • Fraud or Misrepresentation: If there is evidence of fraud or material misrepresentation in the initial spousal support agreement, the court may consider modifying the support order.
  • Mutual Agreement: If both parties agree to a modification of spousal support and present the agreement to the court, the court may approve the modification.

Alimony FAQ:

How long does alimony typically last?

The duration of alimony in North Carolina varies depending on the circumstances of the case. The court considers factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial needs of the recipient spouse, and the ability of the paying spouse to provide support. Alimony can be awarded for a specific period (rehabilitative alimony) or until certain conditions are met (such as remarriage or cohabitation) or for an indefinite duration (permanent alimony) in certain cases.

Here are some common situations under which alimony may be terminated in North Carolina:

  • Remarriage or Cohabitation: Alimony in North Carolina may be terminated if the supported spouse remarries or begins cohabitating with a new partner in a "marriage-like" relationship. Cohabitation implies a romantic involvement with another person that leads to a supportive relationship similar to marriage.
  • Death of Either Spouse: Alimony terminates upon the death of either the supporting or supported spouse unless the separation agreement or court order specifies otherwise.
  • Retirement or Change in Financial Circumstances: Either party can seek a modification or termination of alimony if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as the supporting spouse's retirement or a substantial change in the financial situation of either party.
  • Term Limits: Alimony may be awarded for a specific duration, especially in cases of rehabilitative or temporary alimony. Once the specified term expires, alimony payments cease.
  • Written Agreement: If the spouses have a written agreement that specifies conditions for terminating alimony, those terms will be followed.
  • Substantial Change in Circumstances: If there is a substantial change in the financial circumstances of either party, the court may consider modifying or terminating alimony.

What happens if the paying spouse fails to make alimony payments?

If the paying spouse fails to make alimony payments as ordered by the court, the recipient spouse can seek enforcement remedies. This may involve filing a motion for contempt or seeking a judgment against the delinquent spouse. Legal actions can be taken to enforce payment, including wage garnishment, property liens, or other appropriate measures to ensure compliance with the court's alimony order.

Can alimony be negotiated and settled outside of court?

Yes, alimony can be negotiated and settled outside of court through alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or collaborative law. This allows the involved parties to work together, with the assistance of their attorneys, to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on alimony terms. Negotiating and settling outside of court can save time, expense, and maintain privacy compared to a litigated court process. However, it is important to consult with a Charlotte alimony lawyer to ensure that any negotiated settlement is fair and in accordance with North Carolina law.

Schedule a Consultation to Learn More

If you are going through a divorce and need help figuring out how spousal support works and what you might owe or are entitled to, address your concerns with our Charlotte alimony attorneys. We will walk you through every step and determine your options to help protect you and your loved ones.

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Call (704) 286-0570 or fill out our online contact form to learn more.

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