What You Need to Know About Spousal Support Laws in North Carolina

Calculating alimony following a divorce can be complex and frustrating. Here’s everything you need to know about spousal support laws in North Carolina.

North Carolina considers a variety of qualifications before deciding a spouse deserves alimony. Numerous factors can determine how much alimony the court awards, ranging from earning capacity to marriage length. North Carolina offers many different ways to pay alimony as well.

Types of Spousal Support in North Carolina

North Carolina recognizes two types of spousal support:

  • Post-separation support, and
  • Alimony.

Post-separation support is financial support the higher-earning spouse pays to the dependent spouse during the divorce proceedings. Alimony constitutes the financial support one spouse pays to the other after the divorce proceedings end.

Related: Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina

Qualifying for Spousal Support in North Carolina

North Carolina courts must first determine if a spouse qualifies for post-separation support before deciding how much to award. The court may consider the following factors of each party (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.2A (2018).):

  • Accustomed standard of living,
  • Present employment income and other recurring earnings from any source,
  • Income-earning abilities,
  • Separate and marital debt service obligations,
  • Respective legal responsibilities to support an additional party, and
  • Expenses necessary for self-sustainment.

The court may also consider if the dependent spouse committed marital misconduct before or on the separation date. A dependent spouse’s marital misconduct can influence how much spousal support the court grants, if any.

Related: Divorce Cost By State

Factors Affecting Spousal Support in North Carolina

The court may consider the following factors to determine the amount, duration, and alimony payment method (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.3A (b) (2018).):

  • Either spouse’s marital misconduct
  • Each spouse’s relative earnings and earning capacities
  • Each spouse’s age and physical, mental, and emotional conditions
  • Each spouse’s earned and unearned income sources (earnings, dividends, benefits, etc.)
  • Each spouse’s relative education and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the dependent spouse to find employment to meet their reasonable economic needs
  • Each spouse’s relative assets and liabilities and relative debt service requirements (including obligations of support)
  • Each spouse’s property bought during marriage
  • Each spouse’s contribution as a homemaker
  • Marriage duration
  • One spouse’s contribution to the other’s education, training, or increased earning power
  • Impact of serving as the custodian of a minor child on a spouse’s earning power expenses, or financial obligations
  • Standard of living the spouses established during the marriage
  • Federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award
  • Any other factor relevant to each spouse’s economic circumstances

North Carolina’s Findings of Fact in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.3A (c) (2018). requires the court to give the reasons for its award or denial of alimony and the amount, duration, and manner of payment if awarded.

Calculating Alimony in North Carolina

North Carolina possesses no formula for calculating alimony. North Carolina law leaves spousal support amounts up to the judge. The judge will examine the case’s unique circumstances to award an alimony amount applicable to each spouse’s situation.

Paying Alimony in North Carolina

North Carolina law allows a spouse to pay alimony in various ways. A spouse may pay alimony by (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.7 (2018).):

  • Lump-sum,
  • Periodic payments (monthly or quarterly),
  • Income withholding, or
  • Transfer of title or possession of personal property

FAQs About North Carolina Spousal Support Laws: Calculating Alimony

Can adultery impact my spousal support amount in North Carolina?

North Carolina examines if either spouse committed “illicit sexual behavior” during the marriage or before the couple’s separation date (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.3A (a) (2018).). The court will deny alimony to a dependent spouse found guilty of illicit sexual behavior regardless of financial situation. The court also forces a higher-earning spouse to pay alimony if the higher-earning spouse commits illicit sexual conduct. The court may still award alimony in cases where the court finds both spouses guilty of committing illicit sexual behavior.

Can I modify an alimony order in North Carolina?

North Carolina law terminates alimony payments once the dependent spouse remarries, cohabitates with another person, or meets the court’s requirements for independence. A spouse may also modify an alimony order if the court awarded permanent alimony. The petitioning spouse must prove a change in circumstances makes the current arrangement unfair or inappropriate.

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If you or a loved one would like to learn more about North Carolina spousal support laws, get your free consultation with one of our spousal support attorneys today!