Do Alimony Payments Ever End?

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a mandatory payment that a dependent spouse receives from a supporting spouse when a couple separates. It can be a significant obligation for many supporting spouses, and they have a natural financial interest in understanding if these alimony payments will ever end.

Fairness and Justice

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Courts have the authority to determine whether alimony should be paid for a specific term or for an indefinite term. The amounts and terms depend on a variety of factors that family courts can consider. For example, the North Carolina General Statutes allow a court to consider evidence of:

  • Marital misconduct,
  • Each spouse’s earnings, income, assets, and debt,
  • The age and conditions of each spouse,
  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The couple’s marital standard of living, and
  • The contributions of one spouse to the other’s earning power.

Generally speaking, the duration of a couple’s marriage is an important factor.  For example, if a marriage has lasted ten years, a court may start with monthly alimony payments lasting for half of that time—of five years. The court will also consider other factors and evidence to determine whether to lengthen or shorten the duration from there.  A family law attorney can look at the totality of your circumstances to help you identify the key factors that stand out to a court.

Cohabitation, Remarriage, or Death Terminates the Obligation

Significantly, there are also events that can lead to the termination of an alimony obligation. These are generally focused on the dependent spouse and based upon legal presumptions that this spouse no longer needs alimony. Events that can terminate alimony include the dependent spouse cohabitating with another romantic partner, remarrying, or dying.

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