When your marriage ends in divorce, many aspects of your life will change. You are likely to be moving from a home with two adults maintaining all needs. Instead, you will have a single adult home where you are responsible for everything. This will generally increase financial obligations. This increase can cause concern, especially if you believe you may be required to pay your spouse alimony. You cannot prevent the court from establishing alimony payments. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the process to fully explore your options.
Alimony is financial assistance from the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse in the event of a divorce. This situation arises when one spouse maintains the home while the other works or there is a significant income disparity. The intent of alimony is to help the dependent spouse maintain their quality of life until they can support themselves outside the marriage. Either partner, regardless of gender, can request alimony if they are the financially dependent spouse.
Alimony is not automatically granted to either spouse in the event of a divorce. Paperwork must be filed by the requesting spouse in the North Carolina district court that is handling the divorce. Once the request has been made, there are multiple factors that the court will consider when granting or denying alimony. Some of these factors include:
Finding ways to avoid an alimony order being placed starts with determining the specific circumstances that would prevent the award. One of the major factors is an inability to make payments. If you and your spouse have similar incomes, or you make less than your spouse, a judge will deny the alimony request. It is, however, important to note that you cannot accept a job with lower pay or voluntarily quit your job to avoid alimony. Other circumstances that may cause a judge to deny an alimony request are:
Even if the court has already placed an alimony order, you still have options. If you are unable to make the alimony payments, you can file a request to modify the order.
Alimony agreements will generally contain a date on which the support will terminate. However, there are also certain situations that will automatically terminate the order. If the spouses choose to resume marital relations, the alimony payments will not continue. The payments will also stop if either spouse dies or the recipient spouse remarries. Marriage is not necessarily a requirement to cease payments. Simply living with another adult with whom they share a romantic relationship can similarly end the payment requirement.
Spouses may waive the obligation and right to post-separation support and alimony with a waiver of alimony. To be legal, this document must be:
Without this formal agreement, alimony is still applicable in your situation. It may still be requested by your spouse.
An alimony order is a legally binding order from the court. Disobeying it can result in being found in contempt of court. This can potentially result in fines and even jail time, depending on the reason for failure to pay and the amount you are behind. The judge has discretion on punishments levied for failure to pay alimony.
Unlike child support payments, there are no established guidelines that place a limit on the amount or duration of alimony. This gives the judge presiding over your case significant leeway while drafting an alimony order. Therefore, alimony orders can vary wildly between cases. North Carolina statute 50-16.3A sets up factors to be considered while establishing an order but lacks specific guidance.
Post-separation support is the payment made by the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse during the one-year period of legal separation. If this payment continues past the period of separation, and is codified in an agreement or judgment, it becomes alimony. The criteria for both types of support are the same. However, it is important to use the correct terminology during legal proceedings.
The financial burden of alimony can be significant. It should not be handled with anything except skilled experience. Lassiter & Lassiter has over five decades of knowledge in family law. Our knowledgeable team can examine your case and help you reach an ideal outcome. Schedule a consultation today to get answers about alimony and possible routes to avoid these burdensome payments.
Call our office at 704-873-2295 or email us today.
Attorney Mike Lassiter grew up in Statesville, makes his living serving the people of Statesville and published a book capturing the changing landscape of small town life across North Carolina and Iredell County. His keen sense of history, dedication to the area and 30 years of legal experience make him an ideal attorney for your legal needs.
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