North Carolina Alimony Laws
Alimony can be one of the major issues in a divorce. North Carolina law provides for spousal support in a divorce if one party can show that they are dependent on the other and that their spouse is currently, or was previously, supporting them.
Like other money matters in a separation agreement, determining alimony can become contentious. It is crucial to either spouse’s financial future that alimony is calculated correctly.
A lawyer from Charles R. Ullman & Associates can provide you with a better understanding of our state’s alimony law and your rights and obligations. We will strive to ensure that you have a full picture of your spouse’s finances and are able to make informed decisions that address your current and future financial needs.
Alimony Awards in North Carolina
North Carolina law provides for alimony, or spousal support, to be paid on a periodic basis or in a lump sum from the “supporting spouse” to the “dependent spouse.” The dependent spouse may be either the husband or wife, as long as they are substantially dependent upon the other spouse for maintenance or support.
Alimony is awarded after consideration of several factors, including:
- The marital misconduct of a spouse
- Duration of the marriage
- Accustomed standard of living
- Relative earnings and earning potential of the spouses
- Physical, mental and emotional age and condition of each spouse
- The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of each spouse, including wages, dividends, medical, retirement, insurance and Social Security benefits
- Assets and liabilities of the spouses
- Contribution of one spouse to the education, training or increased earning power of the other spouse.
The supporting spouse’s income at the time that alimony is sought is used as the basis for earnings. There are legal provisions to address a supporting spouse who attempts to avoid financial responsibility by refusing to find or accept employment, intentionally depressing income or deliberately leaving employment to take a job that pays less.
In addition to a lump sum or periodic payments, a court may order alimony or post-separation support to be paid through income withholding or by transferring a title of possession of the personal property (such as a car). Bonds, mortgages, deeds of trust and any other means ordinarily used to secure an obligation for payment may also be ordered by the court.
Alimony Agreements in North Carolina
Accepting alimony terms in a separation agreement simply for the sake of expediting the divorce process can be a mistake that causes future financial stress. This is why it is important to have an attorney by your side to carefully review your case and protect your rights. Unfortunately, too many people enter into these negotiations without a full understanding of what they are entitled to and without an understanding of the financial repercussions of an agreement.
For instance, your family law attorney can make sure there is full financial disclosure. Some of your spouse’s assets that are relevant to support considerations may be difficult to find or maybe business or professional property that is difficult to evaluate.
Assets that may be relevant to understanding your spouse’s full financial situation include:
- Bank accounts
- Stock options
- Deferred compensation plans
- Real estate
- Brokerage accounts
- Foreign accounts
- Offshore trusts
- Deferred tax planning devices.
By investigating and uncovering these types of hidden assets through the “discovery process,” your lawyer can seek to negotiate fair and reasonable alimony terms in your separation agreement.
Enforcement, Modification and Termination of Alimony
The supporting spouse will have a duty to meet their alimony obligations. The failure to do so can have serious consequences.
If the alimony was part of a court order or a separation agreement brought before the court, then it may be enforced through a contempt of court judgment. However, if the separation was not approved by the court, then you will need to turn to traditional contract remedies, such as suing your spouse for breach of contract. A lawyer from Charles R. Ullman & Associates can help you to sort through your options if this unfortunate situation arises.
If you are a supporting spouse who is struggling to keep up with your alimony payments, then it is crucial to seek a modification of your agreement instead of defaulting on your obligations.
Charles R. Ullman & Associates can assist in this area as well by seeking either a court order to modify your alimony based on a change in your circumstances or by reaching out to your former spouse’s attorney to renegotiate the alimony terms in your separation agreement.
In some cases, the alimony may simply terminate. This can occur at a time specified in your separation agreement, upon the remarriage or death of the dependent spouse or upon a resumption of marital relations between the two spouses.
Keep in mind: Any payments you make to your spouse that qualify as alimony under the IRS guidelines can be deducted if you are the paying spouse. At the same time, if you are the spouse receiving alimony payments, you must include this as income.