Alimony disputes and post-separation support are some of the most contested issues in a divorce. After years of marriage, the spouse seeking alimony wants support to keep them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. The spouse paying support may feel like the dependent spouse is asking for too much. When the couple cannot agree on alimony payment and duration, the court will determine spousal support.
An experienced North Carolina family law attorney can help you come to an agreement for alimony, or if it goes to court, fight for your rights to get what you are owed after a separation.
Alimony in Gaston County
Alimony is paid to the dependent spouse by the supporting spouse. The dependent spouse generally files a claim for alimony in family court. A dependent spouse can be either spouse who has a substantial need for maintenance and support from the other spouse after a divorce. Generally, the dependent spouse earned no income or only a small income during the marriage in comparison to the supporting spouse.
How Spousal Support is Determined in North Carolina
There are a number of factors in determining spousal support in North Carolina. The court will award alimony upon a finding that one spouse is dependent and that alimony is equitable after considering all relevant factors. Under North Carolina statute § 50-16.3A, relevant factors in determining the amount, duration, and manner of alimony payment include:
- Marital misconduct of either of the spouses;
- Relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses;
- Ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses;
- 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;
- Duration of the marriage;
- Contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
- 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;
- Standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage;
- 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;
- Relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support;
- Property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
- Contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
- Relative needs of the spouses;
- 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
- 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.
Extramarital Affairs and Alimony
If the court finds that the dependent spouse engaged in “illicit sexual behavior” during the marriage, the court may decide not to award alimony. However, if the supporting spouse engaged in illicit sexual behavior during the marriage, the court shall order alimony be paid to the dependent spouse. If both spouses engaged in illicit sexual behavior then alimony will be at the discretion of the court.
Duration of Alimony
The duration of alimony payments is generally provided for in an alimony award. However, certain life changes may provide for termination of alimony or a modification of alimony payments. Under North Carolina statute § 50-16.9, changes in circumstances that may terminate alimony include:
- Resumption of marital relations (isolated incidents of sex between parties may not be considered resumption of marital relations);
- Remarriage of a dependent spouse;
- Cohabitation of a dependent spouse; or
- Death of either spouse.
Modification of Alimony
There may be changes in circumstances, such as a job loss, that would make it difficult for the supporting spouse to continue payments to the dependent spouse. Modifications to alimony may depend on whether the alimony was awarded by court order or based on a signed agreement.
Under § 50-16.9, an alimony order “may be modified or vacated at any time, upon motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances by either party or anyone interested.” A pay reduction or reduced hours may not be enough to justify an alimony modification. Generally, there has to be a material and substantial change in circumstances in the supporting spouse's ability to pay or the dependent spouse's need for support.
Prenuptial Agreement and Alimony in Gaston County
A prenuptial agreement can also affect alimony payment. Premarital and prenuptial agreements are agreements the couple signs before marriage and can include treatment of spousal support, the amount of alimony, and duration of alimony payments.
Prenuptial agreements can also provide that there will be no alimony payments upon divorce or separation. Generally, prenuptial agreements are legal and enforceable in North Carolina unless the contract is void as unconscionable, fraudulent, or signed under threat or duress.
Gaston County Family Court for Alimony and Support
Support and alimony disputes are generally handled in family court. For individuals getting a divorce, separating, or challenging alimony in Gaston County, the Gaston County Family Court is located at:
325 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Gastonia, NC 28052
Hours of Operation:
Monday to Friday: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Gaston County Alimony Lawyers
Alimony disputes can be stressful and a divorcing spouse can benefit from the experienced legal advice that the skilled attorneys at Caulder & Valentine have to offer. The court decisions in an alimony claim will have an impact for years to come. We are here to help you get the money you deserve and keep your property after a Gaston County divorce. Contact us today for a consultation.