Understanding Alimony in North Carolina

Alimony can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. North Carolina law allows for alimony (also called spousal support) if one party can demonstrate that they are dependent on the other, and that their spouse is currently or was previously supporting them. Like other financial issues, alimony determination can be a complicated matter. Alimony must be calculated correctly for either spouse’s financial future to be secure.

A divorce lawyer from McKnight Law can help you better understand North Carolina’s alimony law as well as your rights and obligations. We will work hard to ensure that you have a complete picture of your spouse’s finances and that you can make informed decisions to meet your current and future financial needs.

Eligibility Criteria for Alimony

Many people believe that a husband always pays alimony to a wife, but this is an outdated perception. Alimony laws in North Carolina do not favor one gender over another, and alimony is a consideration in same-sex divorces. If either spouse meets the criteria and is eligible for alimony, the judge in your case will decide. The spouse who receives alimony is referred to as the dependent spouse, while the spouse who pays alimony is referred to as the supporting spouse. Alimony can be paid to either spouse if they meet one of two criteria:

  1. The dependent spouse cannot meet their own reasonable financial needs without the income or assets of the supporting spouse.
  2. The dependent spouse cannot maintain the standard of living they had during the marriage without the income or assets of the supporting spouse.

Types of Alimony

There are many types of short- and long-term alimony available to couples depending on their circumstances. If there was an existing prenuptial or postnuptial agreement outlining the terms of these alimony payments in the event of divorce, a court would enforce that agreement. Otherwise, determining the alimony amount to award and even whether to award alimony at all can be complicated.

When a married couple divorces, the judge may order temporary support for the dependent spouse for the duration of the divorce process. Ideally, you and your spouse would have created an agreement in writing regarding temporary support, which would eliminate one point of contention in court. If you believe temporary support is owed to you, it is essential to address the matter immediately, even in court if necessary.

There are also various types of post-divorce alimony available. Simple short-term spousal support may be ordered in the event of a brief marriage, making long-term support unnecessary. Then there is rehabilitative assistance, also known as “bridge the gap” assistance which would apply when a spouse requires additional education or specialized training to re-enter the workforce. Typically, this support will last as long as it takes for the spouse to complete training and obtain employment in that field. Just as the supporting spouse is required by law to pay support for the duration, the dependent spouse must diligently pursue an education and then seek work upon completion.

A judge may order permanent alimony in marriages lasting 10 years or longer. These long-term spousal support payments would continue until one spouse dies or the dependent spouse marries again. Judges will order this type of support if they believe that a dependent spouse will not be returning to the workforce.

Reimbursement support could be ordered by a judge in situations in which one spouse forgoes education, a good job, or training to work in a low-wage job to support the family while the other spouse pursues training or education for a well-paid profession. The sacrificing spouse would theoretically benefit in the long run from the other spouse achieving a high-paying career. Still, if this benefit does not materialize before the marriage dissolves, the spouse who made the career sacrifice may be entitled to reimbursement support.

Amount and Duration of Alimony

While there is no set formula for determining the amount and duration of alimony in North Carolina, judges do consider several factors when determining the amount and duration, if applicable. For example, the judge will determine whether either party engaged in any illicit sexual behavior during the marriage early on. The judge also considers other marital misconduct, earning capacity, ages, physical and mental health, the length of the marriage, and other factors.

In general, because each relationship and divorce is different, it’s difficult to make broad statements about how alimony works in practice. Suppose you’re going through a divorce and need to file an alimony claim or defend yourself against an unfair alimony claim. In that case, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced attorney who can provide you with personalized advice and prepare a case to assist you in obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled. Your Wake County alimony attorney will go over all of your options with you to help you figure out the best course of action for your situation.

How is Alimony Paid?

When it comes to alimony orders, a judge has many options. The judge may decide that the other party will make a single lump-sum payment or pay alimony monthly or quarterly. In addition, the judge may issue an order requiring the supporting spouse’s income to be withheld pending payment. Alimony can also be paid by transferring property.

When either spouse dies, the alimony order expires. Alimony also ends if the dependent spouse remarries or moves in with a new partner. If either spouse’s life circumstances change, the court can change the amount of alimony or stop it altogether.

How Can I Get My Alimony Modified?

If you are currently paying or receiving alimony and your situation has changed, you may be able to modify the alimony order. For example, if you are receiving alimony and your former spouse has been promoted at work, you may be able to seek more money. On the other hand, if you lose your job, you may be able to reduce your alimony payments. If you want to change the alimony order, contact an alimony attorney in Wake County to assist you.

McKnight Law: Your Authentic, Honest, Transparent, and Approachable Divorce and Alimony Lawyers

McKnight Law can assist you if you need a divorce lawyer or alimony lawyer in Raleigh or Wake County, North Carolina. We strive to make our clients feel at ease and comfortable throughout the divorce process, exhibiting authenticity and approachability throughout our services. We will be your advocate who will be by your side during this challenging time to help you move forward with your family’s future. You can rely on our attorneys to guide you through every step of the divorce process, and we can help you with any aspect of divorce and family law, including a child support lawyer.

Call (919) 413-7002 to set up a meeting to sit down and talk with one of our divorce attorneys. If you decide divorce is the best option for you, founder and managing attorney John McKnight will be involved in every aspect of your case. When you choose McKnight Law, a boutique law firm staffed by two experienced attorneys, you can rest assured that you will be working with genuine, honest, and transparent professionals. John is a well-known figure in the community, having worked on political campaigns and served on the Wake County Bar Association and Wake County Women’s Center Boards of Directors. His active volunteerism and willingness to serve have earned him respect from people from all walks of life in Wake County, giving you an advantage that other firms without the same community presence may not have.


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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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3801 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 420
Raleigh, NC 27607
(919) 413-7002

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