Post-Separation Support & Alimony
Post-separation support is recoverable in North Carolina only by a dependent spouse from a supporting spouse. An award of post-separation support is based on the financial needs of the parties, considering the party’s accustomed standard of living, the present employment income, and other reoccurring earnings from each party from any source, their income-earning abilities, the separate and marital debt service obligations, those expenses reasonably necessary to support each of the parties, and each party’s respective legal obligation to support any other persons.
Post-separation support is based primarily on the dependency of a party and is for a short period of time during the separation of the parties and can be for any time the judge may set not to exceed past an alimony hearing. Many factors may be considered by a court in determining post-separation support.
Once the court has made a determination of all of the factors concerning post-separation support, the court will determine what amount of money is appropriate for post-separation support. There is no formula for the court to calculate post-separation support. As a general rule, the court will look at the necessary needs and expenses of the dependent spouse and compare that with the needs and expenses of the supporting spouse in conjunction with considering the income of both the dependent spouse and the supporting spouse and the obligation and responsibility to support any minor children. After weighing all these factors, the court will set a post-separation support award.
Alimony in North Carolina is generally awarded after post-separation support has been set and property division has been completed. Alimony is an amount of money that a spouse may be entitled to if that spouse can prove that they are dependent as I have set out the definition of dependency in the post-separation support section of this website. In addition to considering the dependency issue, the court will consider 15 factors in determining the amount and duration of any alimony award. Those factors, as codified in state law (NCGS 50-16.3A(b)), are as follows:
- Marital misconduct
- Relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses
- The ages and the physical mental and emotional conditions of the spouses
- The amount and source 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
- The duration of the marriage
- The contribution of one spouse to the education, training or increased earning power of the other spouse
- The 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
- The standard of living of the spouse as established during the marriage
- The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse to seek alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs
- The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations to support
- The property brought into the marriage by either spouse
- Contribution of the spouse as a homemaker
- The relative needs of the spouses
- The federal, state and local tax ramifications of an alimony award
- Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that may be just and proper
If a court finds that the dependent spouse participated in an act of illicit sexual behavior during the marriage and prior to the separation of the parties, the court shall not award alimony.
If the court finds that a supporting spouse participated in an act of illicit sexual behavior during the marriage and prior to the separation of the parties, which has not been condoned by the dependent spouse, then the court shall award alimony to the dependent spouse.
If the court finds that both the dependent and supporting spouses have participated in acts of illicit sexual behavior during the marriage and prior to the date of separation of the parties, then alimony shall be denied or awarded in the discretion of the court after a consideration of all of the circumstances.
The purpose of alimony is to attempt to allow the dependent spouse to continue their accustomed standard of living that was created during the marriage. The court may make an award of alimony for a set term of years or order alimony until death, remarriage or cohabitation. All of the factors set out above would need to be considered when considering the amount of an alimony award and the duration of that award.