How Much Alimony Will I Owe in North Carolina?
How much alimony a person will owe is a common question divorce attorneys get from people in the beginning stages of the divorce process. It is a valid concern that should be discussed with a skilled family law attorney.
There is no chart or formula that determines how much alimony a person will owe or be entitled to receive. The judge handling the divorce determines whether alimony should be awarded and the amount on a case-by-case basis, after reviewing the specific details of the marriage.
How to Calculate Alimony in a Divorce in North Carolina?
It is important to understand the different types of spousal support available in North Carolina. The first type of financial support that a court may award a spouse is called post-separation support. This is a form of temporary support that may be granted on an expedited basis. The court may order a supporting spouse to pay post-separation support or PPS to a dependent spouse while the divorce process is underway. It is money that is typically used to cover the dependent spouse’s living expenses while the couple is living separately prior to divorce. Court orders for PPS typically terminate when alimony is granted or denied.
Alimony is financial support that the court may order one spouse to pay to another after the terms of a divorce have been finalized. North Carolina law does not have a formula for setting alimony. The judge decides how much alimony is appropriate after analyzing many factors. If support is awarded, the court also determines whether the support will be temporary or ongoing. Alimony payments may be granted temporarily to give a dependent partner time to return to school, gain job skills, and gain employment. Once the spouse is self-sufficient, the payments may be ended by the court. Alimony also ends if the spouse receiving the support remarries or moves in with another romantic partner.
The spouse seeking alimony needs to present evidence to support the claim that he or she is financially dependent on the other and needs financial assistance. In cases where both husband and wife have similar incomes, a judge may not deem alimony necessary. In cases where one spouse works within the home, or one spouse makes significantly more than the other, alimony may be appropriate in the court’s eyes.
What Factors Do Court Consider When Deciding Alimony?
The court considers various factors when weighing whether to order alimony payments. These factors will help the court determine the amount of alimony, the duration of payments, and the payment method. Most courts will examine:
- Income of each spouse
- Earning capacity of each spouse
- The amount and sources of both earned and unearned income for each spouse
- The physical and mental fitness of each spouse including age, physical health, mental health, emotional wellness
- Length of the marriage
- The marital standard of living
- Child custody arrangements
- Whether a spouse contributed to the other’s education, training, or development
- A spouse’s contributions as a homemaker
- Each spouse’s education level
- Debts and liabilities
- Property brought into the marriage
- Needs of each spouse
- Tax ramifications
- Time, training, and education needed for a spouse to become self-supporting
A person’s conduct within their marriage also can influence whether they will collect or pay alimony after a divorce. If a person has engaged in marital misconduct while married, he or she may have forfeited their opportunity at receiving alimony.
In North Carolina, illicit sexual activity within a marriage will jeopardize an individual’s chances of receiving alimony. If a dependent spouse engages in misconduct, they can be denied alimony payments. If a supporting spouse engages in illicit sexual activity, the supporting spouse may be ordered to pay alimony. In cases where both marital partners have engaged in illicit sexual activity prior to separation, then the court will consider the conduct of both parties in deciding whether to award alimony payments.
Other types of behavior that may constitute marital misconduct and affect the court’s consideration of alimony include reckless spending by one of the spouses, abuse of drugs or alcohol, abandonment, or cruelty.
Since there is no set formula for calculating alimony in North Carolina, a judge has extremely broad discretion for determining and awarding alimony. You will want to have an experienced family law attorney advocating for your interest when the court is considering the issue of alimony.
Alimony payments can only be stopped if the court’s requirements are fulfilled or if the court grants a modification of an existing alimony agreement. All payments end in the event a dependent spouse remarries.
Due to the complexities of determining alimony payments, it is always best to consult an experienced family law attorney.