Overview of North Carolina Spousal Support Laws

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When spouses have disparate resources or earning ability, North Carolina have the power to better equalize these disparities through the award of spousal support. North Carolina laws have thorough guidelines regarding the award of alimony.

How Alimony Is Paid

Alimony is payment for the support and maintenance of a spouse. It is paid as a lump sum or on a continuing basis. The supporting spouse pays the dependent spouse, who generally has a lower income than the supporting spouse.

How Alimony Is Determined

Alimony may be ordered by the court after having a hearing based on these criteria. It can also be settled out of court through lawyer negotiations or in the form of a separation agreement.

Factors Used in Determining Alimony

North Carolina’s family code determines who is entitled to spousal support and how much support should be paid. The court considers many factors when making these determinations. A primary consideration is the current income and earning ability of each spouse. The courts also consider the sources of this income and of any unearned income. These categories may include employment benefits like retirement, medical insurance, vision insurance or other benefits. They may also include earnings, dividends and bonuses.

A primary factor in determining whether spousal support should be awarded and in what form is the duration of the marriage. Longer marriages are more likely to result in an award of spousal support than shorter marriages. The court also considers the standard of living that was established during the marriage and seeks to maintain it after the marriage ends.

A central question in determining whether spousal support is appropriate has to do with the potential earning ability of each spouse. The courts can consider the education that each spouse has and how long it would take for the recipient spouse to finish an educational program to become self-supporting. The court considers the contribution that a spouse made as a homemaker as well as the economic contributions that each spouse made to the marriage. The court also considers how the earning power, financial obligations and expenses of the recipient spouse will be affected if he or she is the parent with the primary custody of the child. Additionally, the court considers the contribution of one spouse toward the education, training or increased earning ability of the paying spouse. The spouses’ age, physical and mental health can also affect their earning power, so these characteristics are also considered.

The court is also concerned with a variety of financial considerations, such as the assets and liabilities that each spouse has, including any obligation to pay support for another person or child. The court considers the property that each spouse brought into the marriage and the needs of the spouses. It also considers the tax ramifications associated with the alimony award. If income that was received by either spouse was previously considered by the court in determining the value of a marital asset, this fact is also considered.

The court also has a catchall provision that allows it to consider any other factor related to the economic circumstances of the parties that it considers just and proper.

Marital Misconduct

Many family law courts in other states do not consider marital misconduct as a factor in spousal support determinations. However, North Carolina courts do consider such misconduct. They consider such misconduct as illicit sexual behavior, involuntary separation of the spouses due to the criminal conduct of one of the spouses, abandonment, malicious misconduct, cruel treatment toward the other spouse, whether a spouse was treated with such indignity that made the marriage intolerable, reckless spending of the income of either spouse, the waste, destruction or hiding of assets by one spouse toward the other, excessive use of alcohol or drugs that made the other spouse’s life intolerable or the willful failure to provide necessary support in accordance with the means of that spouse that made life burdensome for the other spouse.

Contact a North Carolina Family Law Lawyer for Assistance

If you are going through a divorce in North Carolina, you will want to talk to an experienced family law lawyer who can explain your legal rights during the divorce process to you. He or she can discuss the factors used in determining whether spousal support should be paid and whether these factors weigh in your favor or not. He or she can also advocate on your behalf and negotiate a settlement that keeps your best interests in mind.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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