How Spousal Support Affects Dependent vs. Supporting Spouses
North Carolina protects spouses who are reliant on the income of the other spouse through alimony. State law has provisions designed to allow alimony payments to start even before the trial ends. The aim of spousal support is to enable a spouse who may have sacrificed their career to raise a family or be a homemaker to continue living at the same standard established while married. Here’s how spousal support affects both parties.
The Dependent Spouse
The dependent spouse may have given up a career or educational possibilities to raise children. Despite their best efforts, the dependent spouse may not ever achieve the same earning potential as they would have before the marriage began. In these instances, spousal support is essentially a lifeline for the dependent spouse.
The Supporting Spouse
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the supporting spouse may find spousal support a burdensome obligation to accept. In many instances, the supporting spouse pays alimony to the dependent spouse for years after the marriage has legally ended. In North Carolina, it’s not uncommon for the dependent spouse to have no obligation to find employment or make a living. That can be a contentious point for the supporting spouse, who may feel that it is only reasonable that the other spouse tries to provide for themselves.
Due to these conflicting views, spousal support can be one of the most combative facets of divorce in North Carolina. Consequently, it is imperative that you retain a knowledgeable family law attorney to guide you through the divorce process, irrespective of whether you’re the supporting or dependent spouse.
North Carolina Laws Provide No Formula for Determining Spousal Support
In contrast to child support, North Carolina laws do not provide a formula for calculating the spousal support. Further, there is no legal limit on spousal support based upon how long the marriage lasted. As a result, spousal support payments can differ considerably between one divorce case and the next. In North Carolina, alimony is governed by § 50-16.3A, which provides a basis for the amount, duration, and manner of spousal support to be paid. Under this law, the court should consider the following relevant factors:
- The marital misconduct of either spouse
- The earnings and earning capacities of the spouses
- The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional states of the spouses
- The earned and unearned income of both spouses, including benefits such as retirement, medical, insurance, social security, and others
- The duration of the marriage
- The contribution of one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning capacity of the other
- The financial consequences of caring for a minor child
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The relative education of the spouses and the time required to obtain adequate education or training to allow the spouse seeking employment
- The relative assets and financial liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses
- The property contributed to the marriage by either spouse
- The participation of a spouse as a homemaker
- The moderate needs of the spouses
- The tax implications of the alimony award
- Any other factor relating to the financial circumstances of the spouses that the court finds to be fair and proper
- The fact that the court previously considered income received by either spouse in deciding the value of a marital or divisible asset
Note that while these legal factors provide a court a basis on whether to award or deny alimony, there are no specific regulations regarding the amount and duration of spousal support payments. For instance, if a marriage lasted less than a year, the court may consider that fact to deny spousal support or make the duration of payments relatively short. Nevertheless, it is not legally required for the court to base its ruling on this reason.
Contact Experienced North Carolina Family Law Attorneys Who Can Help
Whether you’re a dependent or supporting spouse going through a separation or divorce in North Carolina, our seasoned family law attorneys can help you navigate spousal support. Our legal professionals can help you negotiate a resolution to a spousal support claim or, if needed, prepare your case for trial.
At King Law, our family law firm has some of the most successful litigation in our area regarding spousal support and alimony. Founding partner Brian King is a family law specialist in North Carolina, having taught attorneys at Continuing Education classes across the state relating to spousal support and divorce matters. Our attorneys have advocated for countless clients in their divorce proceedings regarding spousal support, with a focus on detailed arguments tailored for your specific situation and North Carolina’s court system.
Our knowledgeable family law attorneys are here to listen to your story and help you through this difficult time. To schedule a consultation, call (888) 748-KING (5464) or complete a contact form today.