Who Is Entitled to Alimony?

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One of the most common questions about divorce has to do with how alimony is awarded. Alimony is one form of financial support that may be awarded to a spouse post-divorce. The payments are designed to help support the needs of a dependent spouse.

There can be confusion over who is entitled to alimony payments and how courts can enforce these payments. Receiving alimony payments is not a given. There are multiple factors that a judge will consider when deciding whether a partner is entitled to receive alimony. Whether you are entitled to receive alimony will depend on many factors weighed by the court. Speak with our Raleigh family law lawyer to see what your options are.

In North Carolina, if a husband or wife depends on their partner for money, they might get spousal support after separating. If someone can’t cover their bills or keep the same lifestyle they had during the marriage without their partner’s money, they are eligible for alimony.

What is Alimony and How Do I Know If I Am Entitled to It?

Alimony payments are paid by one spouse to the other. A spouse who was financially dependent may be entitled to receive support if one spouses’ income greatly exceeds the other. The support can help stabilize the dependent spouse’s financial situation after the divorce. Alimony can be awarded temporarily until a spouse can become financially independent and self-supporting. Or alimony can be awarded permanently as part of a final divorce settlement.

Alimony is gender-neutral. Either spouse may be entitled to alimony, depending on the facts of the case.

To determine if a spouse is entitled to receive alimony payments, a judge considers many factors including: 

  • The standard of living within the marriage
  • Each partner’s income
  • Each partner’s assets
  • Each partner’s earning capacity
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each partner’s age, and physical and mental health
  • Contributions each spouse made to the other in terms of homemaking or advancing the other partner’s career or education
  • Marital misconduct

Often, alimony payments are made to the dependent partner on a monthly basis. If the supporting spouse feels the payments are no longer fair because of a change in financial circumstances, the partner can return to court and request a modification.

However, the spouse must present evidence supporting their claim that modification to the order is appropriate. A judge can consider the request and make adjustments if justified.

How Are Alimony Awards Enforced?

insufficient alimonyOnce a family law judge has finalized the divorce and alimony arrangement, the court orders become legally binding. The supporting spouse is legally obligated to make financial payments to their former partner according to the terms of the court order. An individual cannot stop making payments unless the alimony agreement is temporary and the court agrees that all conditions have been met and that the former partner is now self-supporting.

If a spouse does not comply with the order and arbitrarily stops making alimony payments, he or she can be taken back to court to enforce the original alimony order. A dependent partner can ask a judge to enforce the alimony order and present evidence showing that payments are not being made or are being made late. The spouse who has failed to make payments may be held in contempt of court and face fines and penalties. They may be ordered to catch up on the payments they missed.

A spouse is not allowed to arbitrarily decide they cannot afford to continue to make payments. If a person ordered to make alimony payments is having financial difficulties that make it a challenge to comply with the terms of the court order, then the individual has to go back to court and ask the judge for a modification. Failing to make alimony payments can result in serious repercussions.

The spouse may be held in contempt of court and sentenced to jail. Other possible consequences for failing to pay alimony include: 

  • Garnishment of wages
  • Collections
  • Being forced to sell property or assets

North Carolina courts are serious about enforcing alimony awards. If you are entitled to alimony payments and your former spouse is not paying, contact an experienced North Carolina family law attorney for help. You may be able to collect the money you are owed while ensuring that future payments are made and are on time. If you are behind on your alimony payments, you need an attorney to help you work out a resolution of the issue.