Spousal support is financial support paid by one spouse to the other spouse in order to assist in meeting the financial needs of the recipient spouse. The issue of spousal support may be one of the more contentious issues arising from a couple’s separation. Often, a spouse may be extremely concerned about how his or her financial needs will be met following a separation and, conversely, the other spouse may be extremely concerned about what his or her ongoing financial obligation to the other spouse will be following a separation.
In North Carolina, spousal support falls under two categories: post-separation support and alimony. Post-separation support is intended to offer a dependent spouse temporary financial support while a pending claim for alimony is being litigated. Alimony is intended to offer a dependent spouse a more permanent means of financial support, although in North Carolina a final award of permanent alimony does not necessarily mean that a dependent spouse will receive alimony for the remainder of his or her life. In fact, awards of lifetime alimony are relatively rare in North Carolina.
The law of post-separation support and alimony in North Carolina is arguably more nebulous than other areas of family law. While North Carolina maintains the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines to assist in the determination of an appropriate amount of child support and the law on child support provides a relatively clear means of determining the duration of one’s child support obligation, there is no similar authority to assist in determining the amount or duration of post-separation support and alimony. North Carolina spousal support law simply asks whether there is a dependent spouse, whether there is a supporting spouse, and whether an award of spousal support would be equitable. If the answer to these three questions is “yes,” then it may be appropriate to award spousal support.
The issues of post-separation support and alimony are decided on a case-by-case basis. When evaluating the issue of spousal support, courts consider many factors, including the length of the spouses’ marriage, the standard of living enjoyed by the spouses during their marriage, the respective earnings and expenses of each spouse, misconduct committed during the marriage, the contributions of one spouse to the education and career advancement of the other spouse, the contributions of one spouse as a homemaker, the respective earning capacities of the spouses, and the relative ages and health of the spouses. Notably, in North Carolina, if the dependent spouse can prove the supporting spouse committed adultery before the spouses separated, the dependent spouse must be awarded alimony or, if the supporting spouse can prove the dependent spouse committed adultery before the parties separated, the dependent spouse cannot be awarded alimony. Further, a court-ordered obligation to pay alimony terminates in the event the recipient of alimony cohabitates in a marriage-like relationship or remarries.
To learn more about spousal support, post-separation support, and alimony, contact Chapel Hill Family Law by phone at (919) 419-1244 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.