Many of us have dreams for our futures. This usually involves some combination of achievement in education or career, marriage, and starting a family. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to have it all. In fact, getting married and having children create many tough decisions for both spouses.
One common casualty of having a marriage and children is a spouse’s education and career. We see this a lot, and for a wide variety of reasons, including:
- An education is expensive. Although an education is an investment in your future, tuitions can be unaffordable for many people. Paying for college tuition or trade school, or assuming a big student loan simply isn’t an option for some people. Or if a person gets married or has children while receiving their higher education, the couple’s finances may not support continuing.
- Having children is a major life change. A consideration that many parents face when having children is how much leave they can possibly take from their college education or job to care for their new children. For some parents, this may involve indefinitely forgoing their education or career to stay home and raise children. In the meantime, the “provider” spouse is given the opportunity to elevate within their career.
- Sometimes when one spouse gets a job opportunity that involves moving to another city or state, the other spouse is put in a position where his or her educational or career goals are left to the wayside.
- Pressure from a spouse. Some spouses convince their significant other not to continue their education or to work. The nature of this pressure may be red flag when it comes to the element of control in the relationship.
- Financial security. Some people simply choose not to pursue further education or career advancement once they are married or have children and are fortunate to have financially security.
Alimony Can Pay for Education and Training
When married couple separate, critical questions arise for the spouse who put aside his or her educational or career goals. How can I afford to return to college? What am I going to do for work? How can I get up to speed with the changes in my career?
While property division is a huge part of a spouse’s financial security, we also advise clients to look at spousal support as way to answer the aforementioned questions. Spousal support, also known as alimony, can be paid based on an agreement by the spouses or by court order.
The North Carolina General Statutes, Section 50-16.3A, which establishes court-ordered alimony payments, gives the court wide discretion to order alimony payments from a “supporting” spouse to a “dependent” spouse. Several of the factors that courts can consider regarding a dependent spouse’s future educational and career prospects include:
- “The duration of the marriage;”
- “The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;”
- “The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs;”
- “The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;”
- “Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper.”
In other words, the court can specifically consider the contributions of a dependent spouse to the marriage and to the education and career of the supporting spouse. And significantly, the court can consider the time it will take for the dependent spouse to acquire the education or training necessary to get a job that will meet his or her “reasonable economic needs.”
Contact New Direction Family Law
Separations and divorces are complex and emotionally difficult times. However, you have significant legal rights that protect you and also factor in your contributions to the marriage. The last thing you want to do is to waive these important rights. We provide compassionate, relevant, and thorough legal advocacy. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit us at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law