A quick guide to alimony in North Carolina

Guide To AlimonyMention the word and people often associate alimony with dollars and a complicated process. Who pays and what is it going to cost me? How much will I receive and how is it calculated? Alimony is financial support provided to a spouse or a former spouse with lower income or lower income potential. It is not the same as child support. In general, a spouse must have been financially dependent on the other spouse for most of the marriage to receive alimony. Usually, it is part of a separation agreement or can be determined by the court.

North Carolina, General Statues Chapter 50 Divorce and Alimony § 50.16.3A sets out rules courts follow in alimony request hearings. Either party may request alimony; however, it is awarded to the dependent spouse “upon a finding that one spouse is a dependent spouse, that the other spouse is a supporting spouse and has an ability to pay support, and that an award of alimony is equitable after considering all relevant factors, including those set out in subsection (b) of this section…” G.S. 50-16.3A(a). One should note that alimony and its little cousin, post separation support (“PSS”) rests within the sole discretion of the Court, except in the case of adultery.

If the dependent spouse is found by the Court to have participated in an act of illicit sexual behavior with a third party to whom they are not married, as defined in G.S. 50-16.1A(3)a, they are not allowed to receive alimony. If the supporting spouse commits an act of illicit sexual behavior, then the court shall order that alimony be paid to a dependent spouse. However, if both the dependent and supporting spouse both commit adultery during the marriage, then it’s a “wash” of sorts and the discretionary authority is returned to the Court. See our earlier blog post Abandonment of Marriage for information on G.S. 50-16.1A(3)a.

Be careful. There is no alimony calculator for alimony as there is for child support. Unless the parties come to an agreement, the court will determine the duration and amount of alimony. The court is given discretion in determining the final award.

There are fifteen factors the court may consider in determining the amount, duration, and manner of payment. We have summarized them for you.

  1. The marital misconduct of either of the spouses, including things they do after they separate;
  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.
  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 is affected by 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. The fact that income received by either party was previously considered determining the value of a marital or divisible asset in an equitable distribution.

The court may make an alimony award for a specified or an indefinite time.  If alimony is awarded for an indefinite time, it must terminate on the death of either party and on the remarriage or cohabitation of the dependent spouse.

Presently, when parties file separate tax returns, alimony payments will be considered taxable income to the dependent spouse and a deduction to the supporting spouse.  Parties may file joint income tax returns for any year in which they are married for the entire calendar year, although either party may insist upon filing a separate return at any time.

There are a great number of moving parts involved in ending a marriage. Seeking the advice of a qualified North Carolina family law attorney is very important. Marcellino & Tyson, PLLC consists of experienced family law attorneys who have assisted couples facing the dissolution of their marriage and have been their counselor for the range of sensitive issues associated with the process. We know each situation is different and we frame your case to achieve the best results for your situation. To schedule a consultation, please fill out the contact form on this page.


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