WHAT IS ALIMONY?
Under North Carolina law, alimony is financial support provided by one spouse to the other. An award of alimony can be indefinite or can be in place for a fixed period of time. Long ago, alimony was only payable from a husband to wife to compensate her for time during the marriage, but current law states that alimony can be payable from a husband to wife or from a wife to husband.
HOW IS ALIMONY CALCULATED?
Popular opinion suggests there is a calculator or “set” amount of alimony, but that is not the case under North Carolina law. Instead, the Court utilizes sixteen (16) different factors that the Court can use to determine both the duration and amount of any alimony award. The Court has wide discretion in issuing an alimony award based upon the Judge’s opinion and findings of fact.
To issue an alimony award, the Court must first determine there is a “supporting spouse” and a “dependent spouse” and that the dependent spouse is actually financially dependent upon the other for support or that the dependent spouse is in substantial need of maintenance and support. The Court may use actual earnings of the parties or earning capacity to establish a supporting or dependent spouse.
The sixteen (16) factors include items such as the ages of the spouse, duration of the marriage, earning capacity of each party, standard of living established during the marriage, and contribution to the marriage of one spouse as a homemaker.
HOW DOES MARITAL MISCONDUCT FACTOR IN ALIMONY?
Marital misconduct of either spouse is the first of the sixteen (16) relevant factors the Court can use to determine alimony. Marital misconduct is defined by North Carolina law and includes many different behaviors, including: illicit sexual conduct (which includes numerous sexual acts, not just intercourse); abandonment; reckless spending of the income or destruction, waste, or concealment of assets; adultery; excessive use of alcohol or drugs to render the other spouse’s life intolerable; and willful failure to provide necessay financial support according to one’s means. If the Court finds that the dependent spouse engaged in Illicit sexual behavior during the marriage and prior to the date of separation, he or she is barred from receiving alimony. Alternatively, if the Court finds that the supporting spouse engaged in illicit sexual behavior during the marriage and prior to the date of separation, the Court shall enter an award of alimony. If both spouses engaged in illicit sexual behavior, the Court has full discretion to issue or deny an award for alimony.
CAN AN ALIMONY AWARD BE MODIFIED OR TERMINATED?
Under North Carolina law, once an alimony award is issued via Court Order, alimony may be modified or terminated at any time, based upon a motion to the Court and a showing of changed circumstances. The most common example is the cohabitation or remarriage of the supporting spouse. If a supporting spouse is receiving alimony and cohabitates, as defined by statute, or remarriage, the alimony award can be terminated.
Please contact an alimony attorney here at Miller Bowles to determine whether you are entitled to an award of alimony, if you may be required to pay alimony, or if you would like to modify or cancel your alimony payments.