How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Receive Alimony in NC?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

July 21, 2023

North Carolina considers the length of your marriage when determining alimony. However, it’s only one of the many factors that influence the judge’s final decision, and you could be ineligible for alimony altogether if specific facts are present in your case—no matter how long your marriage lasted.

Here’s more on the factors that determine alimony and how to make your request to the court.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is when the supporting spouse makes payments to the dependent spouse to help them financially during and after the divorce. This support is intended for spouses who can no longer maintain their standard of living after the divorce. The court may determine which party to award alimony, how much they will receive, and how long they will receive payments.

However, the court does not award alimony automatically. You must state your request for alimony in your divorce proceedings. You might be able to decide alimony payments outside of court if you and your spouse can come to an agreement. If you don’t make your request before the divorce is final, you lose the right to receive alimony.

What Factors Determine Alimony?

The judge considers multiple factors when determining who receives alimony and calculating payments, including the following:

  • Marital misconduct
  • Each spouse’s income
  • Age and physical, mental, and emotional conditions of each spouse
  • Amount of benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security
  • Duration of marriage
  • Contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse
  • How a spouse’s earning power is impacted by becoming the custodial parent
  • Standard of living established before marriage
  • The relative education of the spouses
  • Assets and liabilities of the spouses
  • Property brought to the marriage by either spouse
  • Contribution by a spouse as the homemaker
  • Relative needs of the spouses
  • Tax ramifications of the alimony award
  • Other factors relating to economic circumstances

How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Receive Alimony?

Unlike other states, there is no specific amount of time you must be married to be eligible for alimony. The length of your marriage is just one of the many factors listed above that determine the amount and duration of alimony.

Generally, dependent spouses in longer marriages have a higher chance of receiving alimony compared to those in shorter marriages. However, if infidelity is present in your case, the cheating spouse loses their right to receive alimony, and the duration of the marriage is no longer considered.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

There is no specific formula to determine how long a dependent spouse will receive payments. However, some circumstances could terminate alimony early, such as the dependent spouse remarrying, suffering an untimely death, or co-habituating with another individual in a romantic committed relationship.

How to Request Alimony

You can involve the court as much or as little as you want when requesting alimony. In some cases, you and your ex can create a separation agreement—a private contract that includes the agreed-upon terms of your separation. With a separation agreement, you and your spouse can establish alimony along with other details of your divorce without going to court.

If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, you can request alimony during divorce proceedings, and the judge will make the final decision. During divorce proceedings, you and your attorney will present evidence that reveals your current financial situation and highlights your need for support. After the judge hears from both sides, they will establish the amount and duration of alimony payments. 

What if Your Spouse Doesn’t Pay Alimony?

If your ex refuses to make court-ordered alimony payments, you can enforce the court’s decision. One way to enforce a court order is by filing a contempt action. In a contempt action, a hearing will be scheduled where you can present evidence that proves how your ex has willfully refused to pay alimony.

If the judge finds your ex in contempt, they could be forced to pay overdue alimony, serve time in jail, or pay a fine. The court might withhold the supporting spouse’s income to meet alimony obligations. In some cases, alimony payments might need to be modified if the paying spouse lost their job or experienced a sudden change in finances.

Need Help Negotiating Alimony? Call Us Today

Whether you are making a separation agreement or requesting alimony during the divorce proceeding, you should have an experienced attorney by your side to fight for your rights and protect your family. The Breeden Law Office is dedicated to helping you move past this difficult time in your life. Contact our office today at (919) 661-4970.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden