How Do North Carolina Courts Address Alimony?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

How Do North Carolina Courts Address AlimonySeparations and divorces are financially difficult. This rings particularly true when one spouse is employed and the other is not, or where there is a significant imbalance in how much each spouse earns. After years of financial routine and joint expenses, and a specific standard of living, separation splits a household into two separate financial entities. Alimony exists for the sake of fairness, and to take some of the unknown out of the equation.

In North Carolina, the General Statutes, Chapter 50 specifically addresses a spouse’s right to spousal support. A legal action seeking alimony can be filed by either spouse, at any point before a final divorce decree is entered. It can be an independent action or joined with an absolute divorce petition. Under the law, the spouse who pays the support is referred to as the “supporting spouse” and the spouse who receives the alimony payments is the “dependent spouse”.

Courts Can Consider “All Relevant Factors” When Deciding Alimony

Courts can award alimony for “a specified or for an indefinite term”. Further, courts have been given broad discretion in what they can consider when awarding alimony payments. These sixteen factors include evidence of the spouses’:

  • Marital misconduct.
  • Earnings and earning potential.
  • Ages, physical conditions, mental conditions, and emotional conditions.
  • Sources of earned and unearned income and amounts. This may include dividends, earnings, and benefits.
  • Length of marriage.
  • Contribution to the other spouse’s education, training, or earning power.
  • Change in earning power and financial obligations based on child custody arrangements.
  • Standard of living during the marriage.
  • Level of education and further education or training that will allow a spouse to meet his or her economic needs.
  • Assets, liabilities, and concurrent support obligations.
  • Property brought into the marriage.
  • Contributions as a homemaker.
  • Relative needs.

In addition, the court considers the tax implications of the alimony award, as well as whether income received was already considered in a property division determination. Significantly, the statute also contains a catchall provision that allows the court to consider “Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper”.

“Illicit Sexual Behavior”

It is noteworthy, however, that a dependent spouse is not entitled to alimony if the court find that the dependent spouse engaged in “illicit sexual behavior” prior to or on the date of the separation. On the other foot, if the supporting spouse is found to have engaged in such behavior, the court is required to award alimony to the dependent spouse. These scenarios do not apply, however, if one spouse “condones” the other spouse’s illicit sexual behavior. And if both spouses are found to have engaged in the conduct, then the court must engage in a balancing test, considering “all of the circumstances” before making a decision.

New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law handles separations, divorces, alimony, child custody, and child support cases. We care about our clients will work hard and fight for your legal rights. Our experienced attorneys have twenty years of combined legal experience. If you need an attorney to help fight for alimony, give us a call. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or contact us at our website.