What is this thing called alimony?
Alimony in North Carolina is payment for the support and maintenance of a spouse, either by lump sum or on a continuing basis. Alimony is paid by the “supporting spouse” to the “dependent spouse;” the general rule is that a spouse is dependent when he or she makes less money than the other spouse. Alimony can be determined by the courts, or it can be settled out of court in the form of a separation agreement.
No matter where it starts, at some point the conversation almost always turns to money. It may be an amicable and straightforward chat – or it might turn into a bitter, ongoing struggle. Before it gets to that point, it’s important to understand where alimony comes from, and what it’s based on. That’s where North Carolina statue 50-16.3A comes in. This is the law that spells out who’s entitled to alimony, and how decisions about alimony are approached by the courts. And it turns out there’s a lot to consider. Take a look (and remember, it was written by lawyers):
- The marital misconduct* of either of the spouses. (And special mention is made of the fact that any hanky-panky that takes place AFTER the date of separation is fair game as corroborating evidence for marital misconduct BEFORE separation.)
- 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 earnings, dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security…
- The duration of the marriage.
- The contribution by one spouse to the education, training or increased earning power of the other.
- 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 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. and last but not least:
- The fact that income received by either party was previously considered by the court in determining the value of a marital or divisible asset in an equitable distribution of the parties” marital or divisible property.
So what does this all mean? Quite simply, know your rights. Understand what the courts look at. Maintain a clear, detailed and easily accessible history of your financial affairs. And above all, make sure you’re aware of all the financial assets and liabilities that are held by you and/or your spouse.
FOOTNOTE/SIDEBAR: *Under North Carolina law, marital fault has its own Top Nine List: 1. Illicit sexual behavior (meaning “acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, deviate sexual acts, or sexual acts defined in G.S. 14-27.1(4), voluntarily engage in by a spouse with someone other than the other spouse”). 2. Involuntary separation of the spouses in consequence of a criminal act committed prior to the proceeding in which alimony is sought. 3. Abandonment. 4. Malicious turning out of doors. 5. Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse. 6. Such indignities as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome. 7. Reckless spending of the income of either party, or the destruction, waste, diversion or concealment of assets. 8. Excessive use of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome. 9. Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence according to one's means and condition so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome.