If you're going through a divorce in North Carolina and you were a "dependent spouse" (meaning your wife or husband was the primary breadwinner in the marriage), you may be wondering what to expect concerning alimony payments. This can be a particular point of stress for both spouses because there's really no way to know for sure how much alimony will be awarded until the judge makes a determination.
While child support calculations are fairly straightforward, North Carolina has no set formula for calculating how much alimony is to be paid—or whether any alimony will be awarded at all. Judges weigh multiple factors as outlined in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.1A (3) (2018), but ultimately the law gives them broad discretionary powers for determining how much alimony to award. Let's take a deeper dive into this issue, so you know what to expect.
Marital Misconduct Plays a Role
In this state, the first and biggest determining factor in whether alimony will be awarded is whether there was any marital misconduct in the marriage up to the point of separation. Marital misconduct generally refers to "illicit sexual behavior" but also can refer to other behaviors like cruel treatment, abandonment, or drug or alcohol abuse. In most cases, marital misconduct affects alimony as follows:
- If the dependent spouse committed marital misconduct, they will be denied alimony, regardless of need.
- If the supporting spouse committed marital misconduct, they will typically have to pay alimony, even if it's not needed.
- If both spouses committed marital misconduct, the judge will weigh this along with other factors in determining the amount and duration of alimony.
Other Determining Factors
In addition to marital misconduct, the judge will weigh many other factors when determining how much alimony to award and for how long. These include, but are not limited to:
- The length of the marriage. (Generally, the longer the couple was married, the longer the duration of alimony.)
- The relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses. (The larger the income disparity between them, the more alimony is typically awarded.)
- The standard of living established during the course of the marriage. (Alimony may be calculated to try and stay close to this standard.)
- The ages and physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses.
- The amount of time necessary for the dependent spouse to receive education or training to find employment.
- Whether having custody of the child(ren) affects one spouse's earning potential.
- The financial assets of both spouses.
- The tax ramifications of alimony.
A Good Attorney Can Make a Difference
Because of all the variables involved in determining alimony, it's important to have a good attorney on your side who can present your case well and try to get the best possible outcome for you. In many cases, the amount of alimony awarded depends largely on the attorney's skill. Jerkins Family Law has extensive experience helping our clients navigate the difficult question of alimony in North Carolina. Call us today at (919) 719-2785 or contact us online.