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Spousal support is generally referred to by two different terms, depending on the period of time during and for which it is being paid: post-separation support or alimony.
Alimony is broadly defined as payment for the support and maintenance of a spouse or former spouse, periodically or in a lump sum, for a specified or for an indefinite term. Postseparation support can be looked at as temporary alimony – it is support paid until a specific date, until alimony is awarded, denied, or dismissed, until entry of a judgment of absolute divorce (if no claim of alimony is pending at the time of the judgment), or until otherwise terminated. While spousal support ordered by a court can be modified in the event of a change in circumstances, alimony can be thought of as more final or long term in nature.
In order to award spousal support, a court must find that there was a dependent spouse and a supporting spouse during the marriage.
A dependent spouse is entitled to an award of postseparation support if the resources of the dependent spouse are not adequate to meet his or her reasonable needs and the supporting spouse has the ability to pay. The award is based on the financial needs of the parties, considering the parties’ accustomed standard of living, the present employment income and other recurring earnings of each party from any source, their income-earning abilities, the separate and marital debt service obligations, those expenses reasonably necessary to support each of the parties, and each party’s respective legal obligations to support any other persons.
A dependent spouse is entitled to an ward of alimony if doing so would be equitable after considering all relevant factors, including:
(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.
Amount and Duration
There is no formula in North Carolina for alimony. The law gives the court discretion in determining the amount, duration, and manner of payment, only requiring the court to consider the same 16 factors listed above.
Contact our firm today if you have questions about postseparation support or alimony or if you think you may need assistance with a spousal support claim.