Your Guide to Alimony

“Alimony” means payments 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. Technically, a dependent spouse is a spouse, whether husband or wife, who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for his or her maintenance and support or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse.

The amount of alimony varies widely. Alimony is to be paid in such amount as the circumstances render necessary, having due regard to the factors considered by the courts. When the dependent spouse has committed acts of illicit sexual behavior, the supporting spouse is not required to pay any alimony at all. If however, the supporting spouse has also committed acts of illicit sexual behavior then the court is permitted to award alimony. If only the supporting spouse has committed such acts then the court must award alimony.

You and your spouse may decide that one of you is entitled to receive alimony payments and may do so without going to court. If you are unable to agree on the matter, then you can submit the issue to the court for a decision. Alimony is paid by a supporting spouse to a dependent spouse when the court deems it necessary after considering the sixteen statutory factors.

It is important to remember that regardless of whether alimony is arranged by agreement or ordered by a court, it is taxable to the recipient spouse and tax deductible to the payor spouse. An award of alimony may include, in addition to a sum of money in lump sum and/or periodic payments, transfer of title or possession of personal property and an interest in property, a security interest in or possession of real property.

Both periodic and lump sum payments may be for a limited, specified term. In fixing the amount of alimony, the court must consider all the factors enumerated in G.S. 50-16.3A (b): “The court shall exercise its discretion in determining the amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony. The duration of the award may be for a specified or for an indefinite term.”