A Brief Look at Alimony in North Carolina

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Alimony is one of the five major areas of practice for a divorce attorney.  Historically speaking, many marriages employ a system whereby one party takes on the roll of a “supporting spouse” and the other becomes a “dependent spouse.”  As a result of the emergence of supporting and dependent spouses, alimony was developed to provide for the “support and maintenance” of a dependent spouse or dependent former spouse. N.C.G.S. §50-16.1A. 

N.C.G.S. §50-16.1A defines a supporting spouse as: “a spouse, whether husband or wife, upon whom the other spouse is actually substantially dependent for maintenance and support or from whom such spouse is substantially in need of maintenance and support.”  A dependent spouse is defined by N.C.G.S. §50-16.1A as: “a spouse, whether husband or wife, who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for his or her maintenance and support or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse.” 

One of the most difficult parts of determining one’s alimony obligation, or award, lies not in determining who is the supporting spouse or dependent spouse, but rather in calculating the amount and duration of the payments.  The North Carolina General Assembly has enumerated sixteen factors for the courts to consider when determining the amount, duration, and manner of alimony payments in N.C.G.S. §50-16.3A, specifically:

  1. The marital misconduct of either of the spouses. Nothing herein shall prevent a court from considering incidents of post date-of-separation marital misconduct as corroborating evidence supporting other evidence that marital misconduct occurred during the marriage and prior to date of separation;
  2. The relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses;
  3. The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses;
  4. The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of both spouses, including, but not limited to, earnings, dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security, or others;
  5. The duration of the marriage;
  6. The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
  7.  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 a minor child;
  8.  The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage;
  9.  The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs;
  10.  The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support;
  11.  The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
  12.  The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
  13.  The relative needs of the spouses;
  14.  The federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;
  15.  Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper.
  16.  The fact that income received by either party was previously considered by the court in determining the value of a marital or divisible asset in an equitable distribution of the parties' marital or divisible property.

As you review the above, consider how your future may be impacted.  If you decide to set up an initial consultation with the firm, use the above information to prepare a list of questions before your meeting.  This should help relieve some of the stress your are undoubtedly experiencing while also maximizing efficiency during your consultation.

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