Separation 101: High-Income Earners

Written by Jonathan Breeden

February 25, 2021

Your salary has benefited your family for a long time. But now that you’re thinking about a separation, you need to understand how your income will cover your new bills and still meet North Carolina’s requirements for alimony, child support, and more.

This can be a tricky time, and having a high income can complicate some parts of separations and divorces even further.

For more information, keep reading and contact an experienced North Carolina separation attorney at the Breeden Law Office.

Talk To Your Spouse About Living Arrangements

One of the first questions you need to answer when considering separation as a high-income earner is: Where will you live?

If you plan on leaving your home and your spouse plans on staying, what will it cost you to live where you are going? And what will it cost for your spouse to remain in your previously shared home? The answers to these questions will have significant impacts on matters like spousal support and child support, so you must have an honest conversation with your soon-to-be-ex about your living arrangements.

On average, it costs about 40% more for couples to live apart than it does for them to live together. Even with a high income, a 40% increase can strain your financial situation. Ensure that you have a plan in place to cover everything.

Spousal Support as a High-Income Earner

In almost all cases, those who earn higher salaries end up paying post-separation support and alimony in North Carolina. That is because, unless your spouse also has a high income, North Carolina courts attempt to prevent a severe reduction in lifestyle that could be seen as unfair.

After separation, the money you might be ordered to pay to your spouse is called Post-Separation Support. In the event of a finalized divorce, those payments are known as alimony. Both forms of payment have different rules.

Post-Separation Support

Post-Separation Support is meant to support your spouse immediately after your separation so that they are not left unable to pay their bills after you and your high-income leave. Courts typically order Post-Separation Support payments for one year.


Alimony serves the same purpose as Post-Separation Support. The difference is that these payments begin after a divorce. As a high-income person, you should expect to pay some alimony in the event of a divorce.

North Carolina courts will typically take a hard look at your finances, your spouse’s finances, your spouse’s ability to support himself or herself, and various other financial factors to determine how long alimony lasts.

There’s also an unwritten rule in North Carolina divorce cases that alimony typically lasts about half the marriage length. But different courts and judges often have different approaches to this.

You Likely Need To Pay Child Support

Even if you and your spouse plan to split custody 50-50, you will likely have to pay child support because you earn a high income. Using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, the court will look at your and your spouse’s income to determine the amount you should pay each month.

As a high-income earner, the only situation where you will likely not have to pay child support will be if you get primary custody of the children. Anything less than primary custody will probably result in you paying some child support to your spouse.

Your spouse may try to argue that they need, or deserve, more in child support because of your high income, but a qualified attorney can help you show that you are being asked to pay too much.

An Attorney Can Ensure You’re Treated Fairly

Unfortunately, people who make a lot of money often become financial victims when they separate. The lower-earning spouse will often try to take as much as they can get – even trying to exceed North Carolina’s guidelines.

The good news is that you do not have to try to keep your finances intact alone. An experienced separation lawyer from the Breeden Law Office can ensure that you are treated fairly during the entire separation and divorce process. This will include determining living arrangements to business separation to alimony and child support.

To discuss your case with a professional today, give us a call at (919) 661-4970 or reach out to us online.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden