North CarolinaAlimony Guide - Spousal Support Laws
North Carolina Alimony Guide :: Table of Contents
What is Alimony?
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a court-ordered provision of financial support a spouse for after a divorce. Alimony laws vary considerably from state to state, and courts often have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis in determing whether to award alimony, how much alimony to award, and how long alimony payments will continue.
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How is the Process of Alimony Handled?
In the state of North Carolina, following or during a divorce, dissolution of marriage, or legal separation, either party may move for alimony. The court will reward alimony to a dependent spouse on finding that there is a dependent spouse. Many factors are taken into consideration when declaring a spouse dependent and when deciding for how much and how the long the alimony will be.
If the dependent spouse is unable to support themselves independently, whether it be due to a lack of funds or a disability, they may qualify to receive maintenance payments. Continuing the standard of living established during the marriage is the goal of maintenance support, so whether either or both spouses can maintain that standard of living is a main consideration during the case. The court will also consider both spouses’ properties, estates, incomes, potential earning, as well as any other financials the court deems relevant to the case. Other financial considerations include the training or education relevant to both spouses’ field of employment, as well as the current job market for said field. The education level of each spouse, including any interruptions to education either spouse suffered at the expense of the well being of the other, the marriage, or any children. The time an expense needed for the dependent spouse to obtain training or education appropriate to retain their standard of living will be taken into serious consideration.
If either spouse is the custodian of a child of the age or mental capacity that requires them to forgo employment to care for the child, the court may find maintenance necessary for the spouse and for a period of time they consider appropriate given the specific circumstances.
Any other factors the court finds to be relevant will also be taken into consideration for the final judgment and award of alimony. In the end, if an agreement cannot be made between the two parties, alimony is awarded at the final judgment of the judge and court deciding the case.
In the state of North Carolina, a number of factors are taken into account when calculating the amount and duration of alimony or spousal support payments.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating alimony?
North Carolina has a defined list of factors, described in statutory law, that are legally required to be considered by a judge when determining alimony payments. These factors may be directly connected to the alimony calculation formula.
Is marital fault considered in North Carolina alimony?
North Carolina considers marital fault when determining alimony payments. This means that "at-fault" divorces, which may be caused by infidelity / adultery, abuse, etc, can result in the at-fault party paying more "punitive" alimony.
Is standard of living considered in North Carolina alimony?
Standard of living is considered when calculating alimony payments in the state of North Carolina. This means that a judge will consider the lifestyle enjoyed by the alimony-receiving spouse during the duration of the marriage when determining an appropriate alimony payment amount.
Is custodial status considered when determining alimony in the state of North Carolina?
The judge in the state of North Carolina considers custodial status when determining alimony payments. This means that alimony calculations are affected by whether or not the receiving spouse has custody of the children, and custodial spouses may receive higher alimony payments.
How exactly is alimony calculated in the state of North Carolina?
Calculation of alimony is generally done on a case-by-case basis by the North Carolina family court judge who is responsible for the case. While some states have a fixed alimony calculation formula, in most cases the final amount and duration of alimony awarded (if alimony is awarded) is at the discretion of the judge.
- How long must alimony be paid?
- The duration of payments is determined by a judge in North Carolina family court. Alimony length is usually based on length of marriage - one commonly used standard for alimony duration is that 1 year of alimony is paid every three years of marriage (however, this is not always the case in every state or with every judge). Alimony may also be discontinued upon the remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse. In some cases, judges may even award permanent alimony.
- What happens if alimony isn't paid?
- If alimony is unpaid, the owed debt is known as alimony arrears. Arrears can be collected via mediation, small claims court, or wage garnishment. Failure to comply with a court-issued spousal support order may also result in a contempt of court charge against the spouse who failed to pay owed alimony.
- Can alimony be waived by a prenuptual agreement?
- A prenup agreement is a contract between spouses regarding marriage-related financial matters signed prior to marriage. Limitation or waiving rights to alimony is a frequent clause in modern prenuptual agreements, but some states or localities prohibit such alimony waivers.
- Can alimony be collected if you're not married?
- The legal concept of alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is dependant upon a legal marriage. However, in some areas - especially those with a concept of common-law marriage - "palimony", or support payments between non-married individuals, has been awarded by courts. However, this generally requires extenuating circumstances.
- What is alimony mediation?
When a marriage ends through divorce and alimony is expected to be paid, spouses have the choice to determine an alimony agreement either through litigation (in North Carolina family court) or through mutual agreement. Often, a North Carolina alimony mediator can be brought in to help the ex-spouses come to a mutual agreement regarding alimony and other contested issues such as property division, and thus avoid having to go to court.
- How are alimony payments taxed?
On a federal level, all qualifying North Carolina alimony payments are deductible by the payor, and counted as taxable income by the recipient. To qualify as alimony under IRS guidelines, the following must be true:
- The payments are in cash
- The parties live in seperate households
- The payments are strictly for alimony (as opposed to for child support, etc)
Taxation of alimony varies on a state and local level. You can learn more about North Carolina income taxes here .