Alimony is the legal obligation to provide financial support to one’s spouse either before or after divorce. Alimony can be settled in a Separation Agreement, or it can be decided by a judge after the filing of an Alimony claim. It is important to have a divorce lawyer to explain these issues and to make sure that neither party is having their rights tramples upon.
In North Carolina, one must be a “dependent spouse” in order to be entitled to receive Alimony. The “supporting spouse” pays the Alimony in an amount decided by the Court. In general, the supporting spouse is the party who earns the most money and the dependent spouse is the spouse who earns less or doesn’t work at all. The facts of an individual case will determine whether a judge finds that a person is financially “dependent” on his or her spouse and is thus entitled to Alimony.
After the issue of “dependence” is decided, the amount of Alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis using several factors in the Alimony statute. The basic idea is that the supporting spouse must pay the difference between the dependent spouse’s expenses and his or her income. The amount is only part of the equation, though, as the judge must also decide how long the alimony payments will last.
Alimony, like Equitable Distribution, requires the gathering and filing of documents and disclosures on a deadline-driven schedule. Perhaps the most important document in an Alimony action is the Financial Affidavit of each party.
The Financial Affidavit is a document where each party lists his or her income and expenses. The court will use this document to help determine what each person’s reasonable needs and expenses are, and the conclusions a judge makes in this area will impact the amount of Alimony tremendously. It is vital that you have a competent attorney to guide you through the process of completing and filing the documents required in an Alimony action.
The financial picture is not the only consideration in an Alimony proceeding. Marital fault plays a part as well. The most common marital fault that comes into play in an Alimony proceeding is adultery. If the court finds that a dependent spouse committed adultery and the supporting spouse did not, then Alimony is barred by statute in North Carolina, and the dependent spouse will get no Alimony. If the court finds that the supporting spouse committed adultery and the dependent spouse did not, then Alimony is required by statute in North Carolina, and the supporting spouse will be required to pay Alimony. If both parties are found to have committed adultery, the decision on whether to award Alimony will be decided by the judge on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to Alimony, some parties will seek Post-Separation Support from his or her spouse. PostSeparation Support is “temporary Alimony,” and is designed to allow the dependent spouse to meet his or her expenses during litigation and thus ensure a fair trial.
Whether your issue is Alimony or Post-Separation Support, it is critical to have the guidance of a competent divorce attorney to guide your through it.