Seeking Continued Financial Support After Divorce

In North Carolina, there are two main forms of financial support that can be ordered by a judge after a divorce. There are many factors the court generally considers when dealing with the financial positions and needs of the parties when determining whether to award spousal support.

Depending on the type awarded, a spouse may be required to provide support to their ex-partner for a short amount of time or for a more extended period of time. The two forms of support are:

  • Alimony is typically a longer-term form of support that is awarded to a spouse if a judge determines that the dependent spouse — the spouse requesting support — is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for financial stability. Also, the court must find that the spouse required to provide support is a supporting spouse.
  • Post-separation support functions as a means of temporary support for a dependent spouse prior to determining the issue of alimony. A dependent spouse does not have the ability to meet his or her reasonable living expenses. If the supporting spouse does not have the ability to pay, then the judge should not order post-separation support.

Important Things To Keep In Mind

Payments of post-separation support end upon a date specified in the post-separation order or the entry of the absolute divorce judgment, but if a claim for alimony is still pending at the time the absolute divorce is granted, post-separation support will not end until the issue of alimony is decided or dismissed.

If the dependent spouse cohabitates with someone other than their spouse, remarries or resumes the current marital relationship, the supporting spouse can make a motion to modify the post-separation support order.

What The Court Will Consider Marital Misconduct

When determining whether to award post-separation support, the judge shall consider evidence showing the dependent spouse has committed acts of marital misconduct. Only if the judge considers the dependent spouse's marital misconduct will the judge consider acts of marital misconduct committed by the supporting spouse. "Marital misconduct" is any of the following acts that occur during the marriage and prior to or on the date of separation:

  1. Illicit sexual behavior. For the purpose of this section, illicit sexual behavior means acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, deviate sexual acts, or sexual acts defined in G.S. 14-27.1(4), voluntarily engaged 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 of the other spouse;
  4. Malicious turning out-of-doors of the other spouse;
  5. Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse;
  6. Indignities rendering 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 conditions so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome. (NCGS § 50-16.1A).

Alimony

In North Carolina the law gives the judge deciding this issue broad discretion to determine the amount of support, and whether it is to be paid as a lump sum or as payments for a definite or indefinite period of time. North Carolina General Statute § 50-16.3A(b) lists relevant factors for judges to consider when determining the issue of alimony. The statute states as follows:

(1) The marital misconduct of either of the spouses. Nothing herein shall prevent a court from considering incidents of post date-of-separation marital misconduct as corroborating evidence supporting other evidence that marital misconduct occurred during the marriage and prior to date of separation;

(2) The relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses;

(3) The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the spouses;

(4) The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of both spouses, including, but not limited to, earnings, dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, Social Security or others;

(5) The duration of the marriage;

(6) The contribution by one spouse to the education, training or increased earning power of the other spouse;

(7) 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;

(8) The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage;

(9) 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;

(10) The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support;

(11) The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;

(12) The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;

(13) The relative needs of the spouses;

(14) The federal, state and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;

(15) Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper;

(16) 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.

Illicit sexual behavior by either party during the marriage and prior to the date of separation has a major impact on whether alimony will be awarded:

  • Illicit sexual behavior on the part of the dependent spouse prohibits an award of alimony.
  • Illicit sexual behavior on the part of the supporting spouse requires an award of alimony.

If the court finds that both parties have participated in illicit sexual behavior, the judge has discretion to award or deny alimony based on the all relevant circumstances. If the illicit sexual behavior was condoned by the other party, the court will not consider it when making a determination of alimony.

If you or your spouse has experienced a change in circumstances, such as the loss of a job or the acquisition of a new job, you may be able to obtain a modification to the existing agreement or court order. We can assist you with this.

Was Your Spouse Unfaithful Or Abusive?

In North Carolina, adultery can have a significant impact on alimony awards. Likewise, physical or emotional abuse can affect alimony payments. Our law firm is well aware of how these serious issues play into divorce proceedings. Contact one of our attorneys today to learn how a history of infidelity or abuse may affect your particular case.

Contact A Lawyer For A Consultation

Turn to The Law Offices of Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC, to arrange an initial consultation about your alimony or spousal support concerns. You can either contact our Hickory office by email or call us at 828-848-8776 (toll free at 888-321-0494). We charge $100 for a one-hour consultation.