Married couples going through divorce aren’t always on the same financial footing. Both partners might contribute to the household in their own way, leaving one relying on the other for income. This means that, without help, they could have trouble keeping up with the demands of living on their own.
And that financial help is not uncommon. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1.8 million people in the US pay some form of spousal support. These payments often add up to thousands of dollars every year for the supporter. These large amounts make it important to understand what alimony is and whether it’s in play during your divorce.
What support is available?
Alimony is payment from the supporting spouse to the spouse in need after divorce. That help can range from a short-lived safety net to ongoing payments to keep a higher quality of life.
There are also options for temporary support while the courts consider alimony requests. Postseparation support payments are usually made over a short, specific term during your divorce. It could be available to those who really need financial help as the process moves along.
The requirements for postseparation support can take both parties into account:
- What was your standard of living during the marriage?
- What kind of income can you both earn?
- What are your debts and financial obligations?
These payments can help one spouse stay afloat during the divorce, but they usually end when the divorce is complete. This is when alimony kicks in if it applies to your situation.
Who is eligible for alimony?
You’ll have to address alimony before your divorce becomes final. You can ask for a change to the payments after they’re established, but you might lose the chance for support once you close the book on the divorce process.
Your situation will also likely have to meet three general requirements to make the grade:
- Help: One spouse has a serious need for help maintaining their finances.
- Ability: The other spouse can provide support without putting their own standard of living in danger.
- Behavior: There was no marital misconduct from the spouse requesting help.
One piece that won’t come into play is gender. Either spouse can ask for alimony as long as they are dependent on the supporting spouse.
Once a judge has decided alimony is in order, North Carolina spells out factors that can affect how much and how long payments will be, including but not limited to:
- Age and overall health
- Education, job experience, and ability to earn
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Marriage length and contributions over time
- Financial needs of each spouse
- Misconduct during the marriage
No one situation can trigger support, but many can impact the final ruling. Each factor could change the nature of the payments.
Instances for alimony
If one spouse decides to stay home and maintain the household while the other advances their education or career, that can translate to support. This can be even more impactful if you haven’t been married enough time to see the benefits of the arrangement. A court could decide to help the spouse in need as they regain their lost footing.
More long-term help could be in order if one spouse can no longer make up lost ground or meet needs on their own. This might be due to factors like age or ability. In this case, a judge may decide that a longer, ongoing payment is the best option.
One aspect that can quickly tip the scales is the reading on misconduct. While bad behavior can be a broad definition, cheating spouses are often at a disadvantage. If the supporting spouse was unfaithful, North Carolina law requires some amount of alimony. But if the dependent spouse was in the wrong, the law bars the judge from awarding alimony.
But infidelity isn’t the only action that could influence a potential alimony scenario. There’s a long list of behaviors that can sway spousal support, including:
- Cruelty and unbearable treatment
- Spousal abuse
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Wasting or hiding money
How much alimony can you expect?
North Carolina spousal support doesn’t rely on equations to determine the amounts or length of alimony. The judge can weigh the factors before them and make a subjective decision. Providing the right evidence to show your case could mean a big difference in the outcome. This is why it is so important to have a skilled and experienced family lawyer in your corner when alimony is at stake.
Myers Law Firm has over 45 years of combined experience helping clients work through complicated legal matters, including the many pieces involved in alimony proceedings and payment. The judge’s final call could stay in place for years to come, so assistance might make the process smoother now and help you financially in the future.
Grall, T. (2018, December). Support providers: 2013. U.S. Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/P70BR-158.pdf
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.1A (1995).
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.2A (1995).
North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission. (2019, June). North Carolina Divorce Packet. https://www.nccourts.gov/assets/inline-files/NC-Divorce-Packet-Aug-2019.pdf
North Carolina Judicial Branch. Separation and Divorce. https://www.nccourts.gov/help-topics/divorce/separation-and-divorce#alimony-7481
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.