Does Alimony Last Forever?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is money provided from a “supporting” spouse to a “dependent” spouse. To qualify for court-ordered alimony, a dependent spouse must demonstrate an actual financial dependence on the supporting spouse, and that the alimony is required to maintain the lifestyle he or she was accustomed to during the marriage.

How is the Duration of Alimony Determined?

North Carolina General Statute Section 50-16.3a (that a is supposed to be capitalized. I can’t change it) provides that a court has the discretion to award alimony “for a specified or for an indefinite term.” In deciding the duration and amount of alimony, the court has wide discretion to consider “all relevant factors,” which include:

  1. Marital misconduct during the marriage and after the separation date;
  2. The earnings and earning capacity of each spouse;
  3. The ages and physical, mental, and emotional condition of each spouse;
  4. Any additional sources of income or benefits of each spouse;
  5. The length of the marriage;
  6. The contribution one spouse has made to the education or higher earning potential of the other;
  7. The financial impact of child custody will have on the custodial parent;
  8. The couple’s standard of living during their marriage;
  9. The education of each spouse and the time it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to seek the education necessary to find a job that meets his or her economic needs;
  10. The assets and liabilities of each spouse and the separate property of each spouse;
  11. The contributions a spouse seeking alimony has made as a homemaker;
  12. The needs of each spouse;
  13. The tax impact of alimony; and
  14. “Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper.”

Notably, no statutory rule specifies how long alimony has to last. In fact, a court has the explicit authority to award alimony for an “indefinite” term. So long as the court considers the statutory factors and makes the required findings, it is entirely in the court’s discretion to reach a determination. However, for practical purposes, courts tend to give great weight to the duration of a couple’s marriage and the respective income of each when deciding on a duration of alimony payments. Generally, the shorter the marriage, the shorter the duration of alimony payments.

New Direction Family Law

If you are separated and seeking alimony, contact New Direction Family Law today. Our attorneys have ten years of combined legal experience and are driven to provide effective advocacy for our clients. We will listen to your concerns and provide you with all of the help you need to move forward. We serve clients in Wake, Johnston Durham and surrounding counties. Call our legal team at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit our website.