Alimony: How Much Is This Going To Cost?

Alimony or spousal support agreements are some of the most contested decisions in a divorce. Although the proceedings may be filled with emotion, the outcome of these decrees will affect the financial landscape of both spouses long after the divorce is finalized. It's for these reasons that it's important to work closely with an attorney who can help you keep matters in perspective, explore opportunities to resolve disputes peacefully and ultimately protect your interests.

We Are By Your Side During Some Of Life's Most Difficult Experiences

At Scott Law Group, PLLC, we advocate on behalf of clients throughout North Carolina to reach fair and equitable alimony agreements that best position individuals for a sound financial future in the next chapter of life. These decisions are based on the financial position of the spouses during their marriage, as well as life circumstances of either spouse. We are skilled at getting to the bottom of the numbers and achieving what is best for our clients.

Who Receives What?

The court will award spousal support only to the dependent spouse. Generally, a spouse is dependent if he or she earns insufficient income to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage because of the loss of the other spouse's income.

There are two types of spousal support:

  • The first, called post-separation support, is temporary and is designed to provide for the dependent spouse's support until a final order of alimony is entered. An award of post-separation support automatically ceases upon the entry of an award of permanent alimony.
  • The second type of spousal support, called "permanent alimony," is alimony awarded by the court to the dependent spouse paid either in a lump sum or periodically over a specified or indefinite period. Despite the use of the word "permanent," an award of permanent alimony does not necessarily last forever. The court has the discretion to order payment of permanent alimony for only a limited time period.

The court may hold two separate hearings. The first, the post-separation support hearing, may be heard with child support and child custody claims. At this hearing, a judge sitting without a jury will hear the evidence and decide if one spouse is a dependent spouse. In deciding, the court considers the income and expenses of both the dependent spouse and the supporting spouse. The court considers each spouse's affidavit describing their income and expenses, although each party may testify before the court. The court will compare the parties' incomes and expenses, and decide the financial needs of each party and their accustomed standard of living. If it determines that the resources of the spouse seeking support are not adequate to meet his or her reasonable needs and the other spouse has the ability to pay, the court will find the spouse to be the dependent spouse.

The court will then make an award of post-separation support to the dependent spouse. In determining whether to award post-separation support, and the amount of the post-separation support, the court must also consider acts of marital misconduct committed by the dependent spouse on or before the date of separation. If the court considers marital misconduct by the dependent spouse, the court must also consider acts of marital misconduct committed by the supporting spouse on or before the date of separation. Once the court awards post-separation support, the award continues until the date specified in the order or the entry of a final order of permanent alimony. The post-separation support can either be periodic payments, a lump sum payment, a transfer of personal property, possession of property, a security interest in real property or a combination of these.

The Permanent Alimony Hearing

The procedure at the permanent alimony hearing is much the same as the post-separation support hearing. Once the court decides that one spouse is the dependent spouse and that the other spouse is the supporting spouse, the court may award permanent alimony to the dependent spouse. In deciding the amount of alimony to award, the duration of the award, and the manner of payment of the award, the court has wide discretion, but must consider all relevant factors, specifically including:

  • The marital misconduct of either of the spouses (see below)
  • The relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses
  • The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the spouses
  • The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of both spouses, including but not limited to, earnings, dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security, or others
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The contribution by one spouse to the education, training or increased earning power of the other spouse
  • The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child
  • The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage
  • The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs
  • The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support
  • The property brought to the marriage by either spouse
  • The contribution of a spouse as homemaker
  • The relative needs of the spouses
  • The federal, state and local tax ramifications of the alimony award
  • Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper

Because of the wide discretion vested in the court, there is no way to predict with accuracy the amount of alimony a court will award or the duration of such an award. Although the court's discretion is broad, the court must strive to be fair to both parties. If it finds that the supporting spouse is deliberately depressing his or her income, it can base an award on capacity to earn rather than actual earnings. Although in awarding alimony, the court attempts to allow both parties to maintain the standard of living to which they grew accustomed during the marriage, the harsh economic reality is that in most cases both spouses will be required to accept a lesser standard of living because their income levels will not be sufficient to maintain two separate households according to the accustomed standard of living during the marriage.

Learn More About Alimony During A Consultation

Speak directly with an attorney by scheduling an appointment at our Kernersville law office. You can reach us by calling at 336-310-8569 or 800-566-2907 or sending an email by filling out a contact form.