Alimony, or spousal support, is designed to maintain the receiving spouse’s married standard of living. Child support is a reflection of the duty that every parent has to provide for their children. Separately, alimony and child support are significant financial obligations for the party obligated to pay. Together, they can be an exorbitant monthly expense. This plays into the highly contested nature of many alimony and child support disputes.
A common, and important, question that we hear is this: Does a court consider how much a parent is paying in child support and alimony when determining an equitable division of marital property?
Equitable Distribution Does Not Consider Child Support and Alimony Obligations
With the exception of support obligations arising from prior marriages, North Carolina courts generally do not consider child support or alimony obligations when dividing property. Specifically, North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-20, which governs the distribution of marital property, states that:
“The court shall provide for an equitable distribution without regard to alimony for either party or support of the children of both parties. After the determination of an equitable distribution, the court, upon request of either party, shall consider whether an order for alimony or child support should be modified or vacated pursuant to G.S. 50-16.9 or 50-13.7.”
In other words, property division is a wholly separate consideration from the parents’ child support or alimony payments. However, for the sake of fairness, parents can seek to modify support and alimony following the equitable distribution order has been entered.
When Can Alimony or Child Support be Modified?
Modification of alimony and child support are allowed by statute. General Statute Section 50-16.9(a) (Modification of Order) states that: “An order of a court of this State for alimony or post separation support, whether contested or entered by consent, may be modified or vacated at any time, upon motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances by either party or anyone interested.”
General Statute Section 50-13.7 (Modification of Child Support Order) states that subject to specific limitations, “an order of a court of this State for support of a minor child may be modified or vacated at any time, upon motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances by either party or anyone interested.”
So following an equitable distribution order, either parent can petition the court to modify alimony or child support based upon the “changed circumstances” arising from the property division.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
Property division, alimony, and child support proceedings are all complex with many moving parts. If you are separating with the intention of divorce, you should call New Direction Family Law. Our attorneys understand just how important these issues are to you, your children, and your future. We will listen to you and provide you with compassionate, effective legal representation. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law