Spousal support, also known as alimony or post-separation support, is financial support paid by one spouse (the supporting spouse) to another (the dependent spouse) in order for the dependent spouse to live as close as possible to the standard of living that they were accustomed to during the marriage.
If you’re involved in a divorce or you need to petition the court for a change in an existing spousal support order, Myers Law Firm is here to help. We have years of experience representing clients through every stage of the divorce process, and we have an extensive knowledge of the North Carolina legal system and the local courthouses in Charlotte. And although we excel at mediation and communicating with the other side to find common ground, we’ll never hesitate to stand up and fight for your rights in court if that’s what it takes to achieve the best results we can in your case.
The Two Types of Spousal Support in North Carolina
Spousal support in North Carolina can be paid in one of two forms: post-separation support or alimony.
- Post-separation support is a form of temporary support that terminates upon the occurrence of certain events, one of which is the granting or denial of alimony by a judge. Other grounds for the termination of post-separation support include:
- The passing of the date specified in the order for post-separation support
- The dismissal of the alimony claim by the dependent spouse
- The entry of a judgment of absolute divorce when no alimony claim is pending
- The remarriage or cohabitation of the dependent spouse
- The death of either party
- Alimony is designed to be more permanent than post-separation support and is usually paid periodically for either a specified or indefinite period of time. Sometimes, alimony can also come in the form of a single lump sum payment.
Both post-separation support and alimony require the judge to make several determinations before one spouse can begin to receive support:
- The judge must determine that one spouse is dependent. In order to be dependent, a spouse must meet one of two conditions: they must be unable to (1) meet their own reasonable financial needs at the time of the determination or (2) maintain the standard of living that was enjoyed by the parties during the marriage.
- The judge has to determine that the other spouse can act as a supporting spouse. To make this determination, the judge looks to whether the non-dependent spouse has money left over from their income after payment of their reasonable needs and expenses. The burden lies with the spouse who is seeking post-separation support or alimony to prove that he or she is dependent and then demonstrate that the other spouse is a supporting spouse.
- The judge must determine how much to award as either post-separation support or alimony.
How Courts Determine the Amount of Spousal Support
The processes that the courts use to determine post-separation support and alimony are very different. The award of post-separation support is designed to stabilize the sometimes difficult financial situation that results from the separation of the parties, so the determination of post-separation support is generally a purely financial decision made by a judge after a relatively short hearing.
The award of alimony, on the other hand, typically happens after a longer trial. In order to award alimony, the judge must make findings about relevant factors, of which there are 16 enumerated in North Carolina alimony law. If the judge awards alimony, the judge must state the amount, duration, and manner of payment — factors which can vary widely and depend on the circumstances of each case.
In both alimony and post-separation support proceedings, the judge will hear evidence, if any, of marital misconduct such as illicit sexual behavior, which is defined as sex or sexual acts outside of the marriage. For post-separation support, illicit sexual behavior is not an absolute bar against support. For alimony, however, illicit sexual behavior by the dependent spouse will bar an award of support unless the supporting spouse also engaged in such acts.
Myers Law Firm Can Help with Your Alimony Issues
If you have questions about your post-separation support or alimony claim, contact the attorneys at Myers Law Firm and let us help you as you move through a difficult process. We’re here to act as your ally and advocate, so don’t wait to contact us.
To schedule your initial consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or contact us using our online contact form.