Amount and Duration of Alimony Payments in Carteret County
In the mid and late 2010s, many states, including neighboring South Carolina, significantly revamped their spousal support laws, mostly out of concern over inconsistent determinations in different courts.
Judge A might look at a case and award X amount of alimony, and Judge B might look at the same factors and award nothing. However, aside from some minor and inconsequential tweaks, the North Carolina alimony law didn’t change during this period.
As a result, whether you are an obligor (person paying spousal support) on an obligee (alimony recipient), you have financial rights in the Tarheel State. Only a Beaufort family law attorney can effectively stand up for these rights, not only in court but also around the negotiating table. No matter the forum, we look for long-lasting, cost-effective solutions that make a major difference for you and your family.
Spousal Support and Premarital Agreements
North Carolina, unlike South Carolina, is a Uniform Premarital Agreement Act state. This one law replaced the spider’s web of laws that once made up the rules in this area. As a result, spousal support caps and other such limits are more available to more people.
Prenups often contain other provisions as well, such as marital and nonmarital property designations, property division guidelines, and inheritance and succession provisions. So, if you have been married before, you should at least consider a prenuptial agreement. These pacts address many potentially divisive matters, so they don’t poison your relationship.
The UPAA addressed enforcement issues as well. Generally, all such agreements are enforceable unless they are manifestly one-sided (e.g. I get all the assets and you get all the debts) or each spouse didn’t have an independent Beaufort family law attorney throughout the process.
Temporary alimony, which is technically called post-separation support in North Carolina, is available in a few cases. Usually, the obligee must be unable to support himself/herself without the other spouse’s help, usually because a disability or custody of a minor disabled child limits his/her ability to work.
Generally, however, when attorneys talk about spousal support, they mean post-divorce support. Preliminarily, the judge must determine that spousal support is appropriate, based on a number of factors, such as:
- Obligee’s financial need
- Obligor’s ability to pay
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Potential earning ability of each spouse
- Relative age, health, educational, and vocational background of each spouse
- Fault in the breakup of the marriage
North Carolina is one of the only states that allow judges to consider that last bullet point. Even if the spouses are in the process of no-fault divorce, marital misconduct could be relevant.
Judges use basically these same factors to determine the number of payments. “Illicit sexual behavior,” a rather ill-defined phrase, is the major addition. In fact, ISB could be a deal-breaker. Obligees who have committed such acts are ineligible for spousal support even if they have a financial need. Likewise, ISB obligors must pay support, even if the other factors indicate support is inappropriate.
Judges have almost unlimited discretion to determine the duration of payments. The duration usually depends on the underlying purpose of the support.
Frequently, spousal support is a means to an end. These payments help the obligee achieve financial self-sufficiency. Some people need some help along the way. Perhaps they need a few years to finish a degree or they must accept a low-paying job to merge back into the workforce. In these situations, judges usually allow spousal support for a few years, and that’s about it.
Other times, alimony is a permanent income redistribution tool. That’s usually true in the aforementioned disability situations. Income redistribution support could also be appropriate if there is a significant disparity between the earning capacity of the spouses, or if one spouse experiences a significant drop-off in the standard of living. Under North Carolina law, a divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden on either spouse.
Amount and duration decisions, especially amount decisions, are based on financial circumstances as they exist at the time. If these circumstances materially, substantially, and unexpectedly change, a judge could change the amount and/or duration of payments.
The obligor’s retirement is one of the most common examples. Usually, retirement is not an unexpected change. A judge could still reduce the number of payments, but a reduction isn’t guaranteed. Instead, a Beaufort family law attorney must file a motion.
Emotional circumstances, generally the obligee’s remarriage, could come into play as well. Usually, the obligee’s remarriage terminates alimony payments as a matter of law. The same thing could happen if the obligee is in a marriage-like relationship with another person. Some factors to consider include the length of that relationship, any shared expenses, and any joint purchases.
Reach Out To Our Experienced Carteret County Family Law Team
Most family law matters involve complex emotional and financial issues. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Beaufort, contact Schulz Stephenson Law. After-hours, virtual, and home visits are available.