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Family Law in North Carolina: Alimony


Alimony is one of those areas of family law that can seem intimidating to many people. When couples in the Jacksonville, North Carolina area consider filing for divorce, alimony is an issue that’s often first on their list of concerns. To help explain how alimony works and what you can expect if you are going through a divorce, let us look at some common questions about it.

What is alimony?

In North Carolina, couples who divorce can be forced to make payments to their former spouses in order to maintain the recipient’s lifestyle, or support that person’s financial needs. This is known as alimony.

Alimony is most often paid as periodic or ongoing payments, such as a monthly payment made from one spouse to another. Also, depending on the circumstances, a court could order a spouse to make a single alimony payment, yearly payments, or a combination of payments.

Who is the “dependent” or “supporting” spouse?

When a North Carolina court considers alimony, it will have to determine which spouse, if any, depends on the other to maintain his or her lifestyle. The spouse upon whom the other spouse is actually substantially dependent or from whom the other spouse is substantially in need of maintenance and support is considered the “supporting” spouse, while the spouse who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse is considered the “dependent” spouse. The dependent spouse is the one who receives alimony.

It is important to note that alimony exists independently of the sex of the spouses. In other words, husbands are not obligated to pay alimony to wives, or vice versa. Courts make alimony decisions based on financial and related factors, but do not automatically give preference to one spouse or the other based on their sex.

Will I be able to get alimony in my divorce?

When a court considers alimony in a divorce, it will weight a number of factors. These include incomes, age and health issues, duration of the marriage, education levels, earning power, standards of living, spousal needs, and marital misconduct.

A court will weigh each of these factors to not only determine who is the supporting spouse and who is the dependent spouse, but also to determine if alimony is appropriate, and how much the supporting spouse should pay.

What if there was marital misconduct?

In North Carolina, a court must consider marital misconduct when making an alimony determination.

When most people hear the term “marital misconduct,” they think “adultery.” However, there is more to it than that. In North Carolina, marital misconduct can also include abandonment, cruel behavior, reckless financial spending, and more.

If you’d like to know how marital misconduct might affect an alimony award in your case, or have any other questions about alimony, contact us as soon as possible.