Alimony in North Carolina: How Is It Calculated?

calculating alimony for a family in North Carolina

Either spouse may request alimony as part of a divorce in North Carolina and make a case that the other spouse can afford to pay support. But alimony is not guaranteed as part of a divorce.

A Family Law Court judge may award spousal support in a divorce if one party demonstrates that they are financially dependent on their spouse and that their spouse was supporting them before they separated.

A divorce is likely to have a negative financial impact on both spouses as marital income, assets, and debts are divided. Alimony is meant to ensure that a dependent spouse who goes through a divorce is not left destitute. Whether you are requesting spousal support or wish to avoid paying alimony, you need an alimony lawyer with experience in North Carolina family law courts to protect your rights and financial interests. An alimony lawyer at Charles R. Ullman Associates can provide the legal guidance you need.

Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is a court-ordered payment awarded to a spouse or former spouse as part of a separation or divorce agreement.

North Carolina law (NCGS Sec. 50-16.1A) defines alimony as an order for payment for the support and maintenance of a spouse or former spouse ordered as part of a separation or divorce proceeding. An alimony order may require a lump sum payment or periodic payments, such as monthly, for a specified term or indefinitely.

Types of Alimony in North Carolina

In a North Carolina divorce, there are generally two types of alimony possible:

  • Post-Separation Support, formerly called temporary alimony. Post-separation support is financial assistance one spouse is ordered to provide the other during divorce proceedings. A dependent spouse may receive post-separation support until a divorce is finalized or until a date specified in a post-separation order.
  • Alimony may be ordered as part of a final divorce decree or a legal separation in North Carolina. Alimony payments end if either party dies or if the recipient remarries or cohabitates with another adult.

A divorcing couple in North Carolina may work out the terms of support payments as part of their separation agreement outside of court, usually with the assistance of divorce attorneys. If a separation agreement is equitable, a Family Law Court judge may adopt it as the divorce order.

How Are Alimony Amounts Determined in North Carolina?

Once a judge decides one spouse needs alimony and that the other can afford to pay it, the judge may take into consideration elements of the entire marital picture. This includes:

  • How much each spouse earns or may potentially earn
  • Each spouse’s age and overall health
  • All sources of income, including retirement benefits and investments
  • The length of the marriage
  • The financial impact of assuming custody of any minor children
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • The difference in the spouses’ education and how long it may take the spouse requesting alimony to obtain sufficient training to become employed
  • Whether and how much one spouse contributed to the other’s professional education
  • The difference in the spouses’ assets and debts, including other legal support obligations
  • Marital misconduct by either spouse, such as reckless spending, abuse of drugs or alcohol, abandonment, or cruelty
  • What property each spouse brought to the marriage
  • The household contributions of a stay-at-home spouse
  • The relative needs of either spouse
  • The tax impact of any alimony award.

Because North Carolina does not have set rules or a formula for calculating alimony, a judge has extremely broad discretion for awarding alimony. Proper support payments should be based primarily on the dependent spouse’s recurring needs as well as other factors outlined above, and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay.

The judge will have full financial statements from each spouse, including income and expenses. From this information, a judge should be able to calculate a recurring payment to be made to ensure the dependent spouse can meet their financial needs and obligations. If the court awards alimony, the dependent spouse may also be entitled to recover attorney’s fees.

As your attorneys, Charles Ullman & Associates will calculate and propose a reasonable alimony payment for you to receive or pay based on your employment and financial needs. Because opposing counsel will likely take an adversarial position to your request, you should have an experienced divorce attorney advocating for you and protecting your interests as the court considers the issue of alimony.

Who Gets Alimony After Divorcing in North Carolina?

North Carolina law provides that alimony may be awarded to the dependent spouse in a marriage being dissolved by divorce. The spouse who pays alimony is known as the supporting spouse. Either person in the marriage may become the supporting or dependent spouse.

State law defines a dependent spouse as the spouse who is substantially dependent upon the other spouse for his or her maintenance and financial support or is substantially in need of support from the other spouse.

North Carolina law provides no other guidance for who gets alimony in a divorce. Through court cases and custom, a judge will award support if the spouse seeking alimony:

  • Can’t meet their own reasonable financial needs without the other spouse’s income or assets, or
  • Can’t maintain the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage without the other spouse’s income or assets.

A spouse seeking alimony in a contested divorce must be able to prove to the satisfaction of the judge that they need financial support. The other party in the divorce has the right to present evidence that alimony payments are unwarranted or that they cannot afford them.

Further, if a court finds that the supporting spouse was engaged in illicit sexual behavior during the marriage, then it will automatically award alimony to the requesting spouse. Conversely, a spouse will be denied alimony if the court finds evidence of illicit sexual behavior during the marriage on the part of the spouse requesting support – regardless of current financial needs.

North Carolina law (NCGS Sec. 50-16.1A(3)(a)) defines illicit sexual behavior as acts of sexual intercourse or other sexual acts voluntarily engaged in by a spouse with someone other than the other spouse.

Contact Our Raleigh Alimony Lawyers to Discuss Alimony

Charles R. Ullman & Associates spousal support lawyers have helped many clients in Raleigh and Wake County deal with alimony issues as part of a divorce.  Our team will assess the financial statements you and your spouse provide as part of divorce proceedings and determine an equitable arrangement for alimony we can seek in court.

Attorney Charles Ullman is a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Family Law. Our firm’s skilled divorce attorneys handle all aspects of divorce, from simple divorces to the most complex litigation in contested divorces. Please contact us today to discuss your current situation and how we can help you move forward.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.