In North Carolina, alimony (also called “spousal support”) is awarded when there is a dependent spouse and a supporting spouse and an award of alimony would be equitable, considering all relevant factors. A dependent spouse is, essentially, one who earns less money than the other, who is called a “supporting spouse.”
The court will consider 16 specific factors that are considered relevant in the statute, but it may also consider other factors that it finds relevant. The court has a great deal of discretion in awarding alimony, including the length of time for the award, and in how much will be awarded, but it does need to provide reasons for its decision.
That said, marital infidelity can play a role in the court’s decision. For example, if you are the dependent spouse and you committed adultery before your separation date, you will generally not be awarded any alimony unless the other spouse also committed adultery. If the dependent spouse committed adultery before separation, alimony is generally awarded.
These presumptions can change, however, if either of you condoned the other’s infidelity or if both of you were unfaithful. Questions of marital misconduct can be decided by a jury if you wish.
What factors must courts consider when awarding alimony?
- Marital misconduct (infidelity, abandonment, reckless spending, verbal or physical abuse)
- The relative earnings and earning capacities of each spouse
- The ages and physical, mental, and emotional conditions of each spouse
- The amount and sources of each spouse’s income
- The length of the marriage
- Whether one spouse contributed to the education, training or increased earning capacity of the other
- The extent to which caring for a child will affect the earning capacity, expenses and financial obligations of a spouse
- The standard of living the spouses established during the marriage
- The relative education of the spouses, along with the time necessary for the dependent spouse to find employment sufficient to meet their reasonable economic needs
- The relative assets and liabilities of each spouse, including debt service requirements and legal obligations of support (prior child or spousal support orders)
- The property each spouse brought to the marriage
- The contribution of one spouse as a homemaker
- The spouses’ relative needs
- The tax ramifications, if any, of the alimony award
- Any other factor related to the parties’ economic circumstances that the court finds just and proper to consider
- Whether income received by either party was previously considered when dividing the couple’s property
Whether you are seeking alimony, or you could be ordered to pay it, there is a lot at stake. Your attorney can help you present a convincing case to the court for how the relevant factors should be weighed in your particular case.