How is Alimony Determined in NC?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

December 7, 2022

Divorces can be complicated, especially when they are financially complex. Whether you need money during or after a divorce or have to pay alimony, you will want to understand how the court determines it. Many factors are considered when establishing alimony and similar spousal support.

Alimony vs. Post-Separation Support

There are multiple kinds of spousal support, including alimony and post-separation support. Alimony is financial support awarded by a judge after finalizing a divorce. By contrast, post-separation support may be awarded as temporary alimony during the divorce process.

How Can You Qualify for Post-Separation Support

If you are separated from your spouse but not yet divorced, you may qualify for financial support from them in post-separation support. This “temporary alimony” can be ordered by the court to help one spouse maintain their standard of living during the divorce process.

When determining if post-separation support is appropriate, the court evaluates if the dependent spouse has enough resources to support themselves through the divorce process. The judge verifies that the other spouse can afford to pay temporary alimony if they do not.

The factors used to decide if post-separation support is appropriate and how much should be awarded are like those used to determine alimony. They include the following:

  • Financial needs of both spouses
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Employment income and other earnings of both spouses
  • Income-earning abilities of each spouse
  • Debt obligations of each spouse
  • Necessary expenses
  • Other third-party support obligations (including preexisting alimony and child support orders)

The court considers marital misconduct when establishing post-separation support. The existence of marital misconduct may influence an award and the amount of post-separation support.

What Are the Factors in Determining Alimony?

No formula exists for calculating alimony in North Carolina. The court evaluates the following factors when determining the duration and amount of alimony in North Carolina:

  • Marital misconduct (including drug and alcohol use, cruel treatment, and abandonment)
  • Earning ability of both spouses
  • Ages of both spouses
  • Physical, mental, and emotional health of each spouse
  • Earned and unearned income of both spouses
  • Length of the marriage
  • Contribution of one spouse to the other spouse’s education or increased earning power
  • Child custody implications (such as reduced earning capacity of a caregiver)
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Time necessary for the dependent spouse to become financially independent
  • Assets and liabilities of both spouses
  • Property each spouse brought into the marriage
  • Contributions of one spouse as a homemaker or caregiver
  • Needs of each spouse
  • Tax ramifications of alimony

Additionally, North Carolina law allows the court to consider other relevant factors when deciding alimony.

Illicit Sexual Behavior and Alimony

One issue automatically results in an award or rejection of alimony – illicit sexual behavior. The court would deny alimony if the dependent spouse engaged in illicit sexual behavior.

However, if the supporting spouse is guilty of illicit sexual behavior, then alimony will automatically be awarded. If both spouses committed illicit sexual behavior, the court might have to weigh additional factors.

How Is Alimony Paid in North Carolina?

You may pay alimony in predetermined lump sums or periodic payments, often monthly or quarterly. An income withholding order may get issued to force the supporting spouse to pay the dependent spouse at regular intervals.

Can You Modify Alimony?

There are multiple ways to modify or terminate alimony. If the recipient of alimony meets specific requirements or becomes financially independent, the alimony may automatically terminate if the court so orders.

However, if there is another substantial change of circumstances, either party may return to court to seek an alimony modification.

An example of a change in circumstances may be that the dependent spouse finished their education earlier than expected and no longer needs alimony.

Alimony also automatically terminates if the dependent spouse cohabitates with a third party in a “marriage-like” relationship or remarries. If either spouse dies, alimony is automatically terminated as well.

Contact an Alimony Lawyer for Help Today

If your divorce involves alimony, you must work with an attorney familiar with North Carolina family laws. There are many ways to influence the court’s decision regarding alimony. Whether you want to establish, modify, or terminate alimony, an experienced lawyer helps you get the best outcome possible.

Contact the alimony lawyers at Breeden Law Office today at (919) 661-4970 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden