Alimony: What Can Be Held Against Me?

In Separation & Divorce by Sarah Hink

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a frequently contested element of separations and divorces in North Carolina. It isn’t difficult to understand why. Separations are emotional times and are sometimes triggered by extreme animosity, so it does not help when the issue of ongoing spousal support payments arises. One spouse may feel entitled to as much support as possible, while the other completely disagrees and does not feel that they should have to pay anything.

How Does Alimony Work?

A court can order a “supporting” spouse to make alimony payments to a “dependent” spouse based on numerous factors set forth in the North Carolina General Statutes. These factors generally allow a court to take a step back and look at the totality of the marriage. Some of the factors a court can consider include the duration of the marriage, the ages and health of each spouse, the relative earnings of each spouse, the earning potential of each spouse, the education of each spouse, the couple’s standard of living during the marriage, the assets and liabilities of each spouse, the educational needs of a dependent spouse to re-enter the workforce, and the contributions of a spouse as a homemaker.

Alimony Also Considers “Marital Misconduct”

What truly sets alimony apart from other aspects of a separation and divorce in North Carolina is that the court can consider either spouse’s marital misconduct when determining an award of alimony.”. When it comes to absolute divorce, property division, and child support obligations, courts are not permitted to consider the fault or misconduct of the spouses. Therefore, in contentious cases, the best opportunity that spouses have to air their grievances and each other’s dirty laundry is during alimony proceedings.

“Marital misconduct” focuses on acts that occurred between the date of marriage and the date of separation, although misconduct that happens after the separation can be used as corroborative evidence of infidelity or other misconduct during the marriage. The General Statutes define this to include:

  • “Illicit sexual behavior” which generally involves infidelity or a sexual act between a spouse and person outside the marriage;
  • “Involuntary separation” based on the criminal act of a spouse;
  • Abandonment of a spouse by the other spouse;
  • “Malicious turning out-of-doors”;
  • “Cruel or barbarous treatment” that endangered the other spouse’s life;
  • Indignities that made the other spouse’s life intolerable and burdensome;
  • Reckless spending or the destruction, waste, diversion, or concealment of assets;
  • Excessive substance use that made the other spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome; and
  • Failure to provide “necessary subsistence” that renders the other spouse’s condition intolerable burdensome.

New Direction Family Law

If you are facing the possibility of an alimony judgment, you need an attorney to assist you. Many allegations of misconduct and impropriety come out during alimony proceedings and you do not want to be caught flat-footed. At New Direction Family Law, we know the law and prepare exhaustively to make sure that you are treated fairly through this process. Let us help you stand up for your rights. We serve Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or reach us online.

Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law
(919) 719-3470