Is There an Alimony Calculation?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When couples decide to divorce in North Carolina, one of the issues that can arise is that of spousal support. This is an entirely separate issue from property division (also known as equitable distribution) and from child support. If a spousal support agreement cannot be reached, a spouse can file a lawsuit asking a judge to award postseparation support or alimony. In our years of experience, alimony proceedings can be a harsh and bitter fight.

If you are considering a divorce or are separated with the intention of divorcing, it is a good idea to begin mentally preparing for the issues of alimony. We frequently hear the following questions: How much should I expect to pay or receive in alimony? Is there an alimony calculation that courts implement?

Unlike child support, which courts initially base on worksheets and guidelines, there is no formula or algorithm that courts use to calculate an alimony award. In other words, there is no specific alimony calculation that you should rely on to figure out how much you are going to owe or receive in alimony. Instead, you should be aware of what a court considers when awarding alimony.

When a Court Can Order Alimony

A court has wide discretion to order a supporting spouse to pay alimony to a dependent spouse. First, a court shall order alimony if it determines that an award is “equitable” under the factors we will discuss below. Second, if a supporting spouse has “participated in an act of illicit sexual behavior,” then a court is mandated to order alimony. On the other hand, if the dependent spouse has committed an act of illicit sexual behavior, then there will be no alimony awarded.

North Carolina General Statutes provide courts with broad discretion in what they can consider when awarding alimony, including:

  • Evidence of marital misconduct;
  • The earnings of each spouse (and capacity to earn);
  • The ages and physical/mental/emotional conditions of the spouses;
  • The amount and sources of the spouses incomes;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The contributions of one spouse to the education or earning ability of the other spouse;
  • The economic impact of child custody;
  • The marital standard of living;
  • The education of the dependent spouse and how long it will take to obtain a job that meets their needs;
  • Liabilities and debts;
  • The separate property of the spouses;
  • The contributions as a homemaker;
  • The needs of the spouses relative to one another;
  • The tax impacts of alimony;
  • The extent to which income was already considered as part of the equitable distribution proceedings; or
  • “Any other factor” regarding the spouses’ economic circumstances that “the court finds to be just and proper.”

Significantly, alimony can be either a specific term or ordered for an indefinite term.

New Direction Family Law

Courts have broad discretion when it comes to alimony awards. It is therefore imperative that you have an attorney who understands the law and will fight for you. At New Direction Family Law, we represent men and women in alimony disputes and pride ourselves in our thorough and hard-working approach. For years, we have provided smart, effective representation. Let us leverage our experience to your benefit. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a discrete consultation, or contact us at our website.