Indefinite alimony still exists but is less common than it used to be. Many alimony awards are now given for a specific period of time. Regardless of whether the alimony is indefinite or for a fixed term, the obligation or right can terminate when any of the following events take place.
Death of Either Spouse
Many of the provisions that deal with alimony termination or modification are found in §50-16.9. This section provides that post-separation support or alimony will always terminate if either the supporting spouse or dependent spouse dies.
Resumption of Marital Relations
If the parties decide to give their marriage another try, it can terminate the obligation to pay alimony or post-separation support. If a resumption of marital relations occurs during separation, the clock stops on the mandatory one-year separation period as well. The spouses would need to live separate and apart for another full year before being granted a divorce.
Whether a resumption of marital relations has taken place is determined based on the totality of circumstances and isn’t conclusively shown if isolated acts of sexual intercourse take place.
Remarriage of the Dependent Spouse
If the party receiving alimony remarries, the alimony obligation terminates. This situation provides a certain termination of alimony payments, while cohabitation can be a more ambiguous case.
Cohabitation of Dependent Spouse
A dependent spouse who cohabitates with another person will have their right to alimony payments terminated in North Carolina. Cohabitation is defined as two persons dwelling together in a private heterosexual or homosexual relationship. If the parties are living like a married couple, this can be used as evidence of cohabitation.
Cohabitation can be difficult to prove because the dependent spouse may try to hide their actions in order to keep receiving alimony payments. A shared apartment lease or rental agreement could be evidence of cohabitation. You can also hire a private investigator to gather evidence for you, but you should talk to a divorce attorney first to make sure you handle the situation properly.
South Carolina also has a similar law that provides for termination of alimony if the dependent spouse cohabitates with another person for 90 consecutive days.
Termination by Contract
If you and your ex negotiated a separation agreement or a prenuptial agreement that spelled out your alimony rights and obligations, it may have provided for a fixed term of alimony payments. Once this term ends, the right to receive alimony ends.
Courts will generally enforce these contracts unless special circumstances exist, such as the supporting spouse’s failure to fully disclose their finances.
Termination by Court Order
A court will look at many different factors, including infidelity or marital misconduct by either party when determining the amount and duration of alimony. Because of the broad discretion given to the court, it’s possible that two different judges could give different alimony judgments in two similar cases.
A court could order you to pay alimony for three years, five years, ten years, or indefinitely. Your alimony obligations will terminate at the end of this term unless another event occurs before then that terminates the alimony.
Even if your alimony obligations can’t be terminated, you have the right to seek a modification if circumstances change. If you’ve lost your job or are experiencing financial difficulties, consult a divorce attorney to see if you should file a motion for an alimony modification.
Call King Law at (888)748-KING to schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys. Whether you’re divorced, separated, or considering a prenuptial agreement, we can help craft a solution designed to meet your needs.