Checking wallet for alimony payment money | New Direction Family Law

Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, constitutes a legal obligation where a dependent spouse receives periodic payments from the supporting spouse following their separation or divorce. This financial arrangement can emerge as a substantial and often complex obligation for the supporting spouse.

Because of the financial repercussions, it’s important for the supporting spouse to gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors and conditions that ultimately determine when and how these alimony payments will eventually end. Here is everything to know about the length of alimony payments.

Understanding Alimony Payments

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Like most issues in family law, the outcome depends on a variety of factors.

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
  • 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 and help you to identify the key factors that stand out to a court.

What Causes Alimony Agreements To Be Terminated?

The termination of an alimony agreement depends upon several factors. The termination typically results from a change in circumstances that can alter the financial needs and abilities of both parties involved. Here are some key aspects that can lead to the termination of an alimony agreement.

Remarriage or Cohabitation

One of the most common reasons for the termination of alimony is the recipient spouse’s remarriage. In many jurisdictions, when the recipient spouse remarries, they are no longer considered financially dependent on their former spouse. Additionally, some alimony agreements may end if the recipient begins living with a new partner, as this may be seen as a reduction in their financial needs.

Change in Financial Situation

In some cases, alimony agreements can also be terminated or modified if there is a significant change in either party’s financial situation. For the paying spouse, this could mean a substantial decrease in their income, making it difficult to continue making the agreed-upon payments. Conversely, if the recipient spouse experiences an increase in income or financial independence, it may justify a reduction or termination of alimony.


The death of either the paying or receiving spouse often results in the termination of alimony. Alimony obligations are typically considered personal and are not passed on to the deceased’s estate or heirs.

It’s important to note the death of a parent can differ in child support cases. Sometimes, child support orders can still be in effect even if the payee or payor parent dies. Spousal support, on the other hand, does end with the death of either spouse unless specifically stated otherwise in the divorce decree.

Voluntary Agreement

In some cases, both parties may agree to terminate the alimony voluntarily. This can occur if they believe the original reasons for the support are no longer valid, or if they wish to modify the terms of the agreement. This will obviously require cooperation and understanding between both of the parties.

Court-Ordered Modification

Courts typically do not have the power to modify or terminate an alimony agreement but the court can modify a prior court’s order for alimony if one party can demonstrate a substantial change in their circumstances.

For example, life changes that can cause the court to modify an order include a loss of income or disability. If you believe you can demonstrate a change that’d constitute a modification, contact our family law attorneys today.

Reaching the Agreement’s Purpose

The purpose of alimony is to provide financial support during a transition period. If the recipient spouse becomes financially self-sufficient and no longer requires financial assistance, this may lead to the termination of the alimony. Of course, it depends on how the judge interprets the dependent spouse’s ability to be financially independent.

What To Remember

It’s important to note that the specific rules and regulations regarding the termination and modification of alimony can vary significantly by jurisdiction. The terms of the alimony agreement itself can also play a crucial role in determining under what conditions it can be terminated.

Parties involved in alimony agreements should consult with legal counsel and understand their local laws to ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Contact New Direction Family Law For Alimony Help

New Direction Family Law provides legal counsel and representation to clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. If you need an attorney to assist with issues of equitable distribution, alimony, child custody, or child support, we can help you.

With over 90 years of combined experience, our attorneys have skillfully guided our clients toward resolutions that help them move toward new directions in their lives. You deserve to be heard, and we are listening. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6365 to schedule a consultation or fill out our contact form.

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