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How is Alimony Determined in North Carolina?

Divorce is often an emotionally and financially draining experience. For spouses who spent all or part of their marriage economically dependent on their wife or husband, the monetary toll is unlikely to end after the divorce is finalized. Alimony is intended to lessen this financial impact and allow each spouse to maintain a standard of living similar to what they experienced during their marriage.

But how do courts decide when alimony should be awarded, and what are the factors that influence the amount and duration of support?

North Carolina’s Alimony Statute

There are numerous statutory requirements and elements that judges consider in North Carolina alimony cases[1], one such factor being entitlement. Either spouse can request alimony in the divorce complaint. However, only a dependent spouse may be granted support. North Carolina statute says that alimony will be awarded if one spouse is found to be a dependent spouse, the other is a supporting spouse, and alimony is an equitable solution[2].

Courts may exercise discretion when deciding on North Carolina alimony cases, specifically the following factors:

  • The amount of payment
  • The manner or method of payment
  • The duration of payment

Further, state law dictates that the relevant factors must be considered in each alimony case in North Carolina, including[3]:

  • Marital misconduct
  • Earnings and earning capacities of each spouse
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The duration of the marriage
  • All earned and unearned income of the spouses
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • How earning potential is affected by custody of minor children
  • Nonmonetary contributions to the marriage

A court must make a finding of fact for each of these factors the requesting spouse provides evidence for. A North Carolina divorce attorney is a valuable resource when deciding which statutory element to focus on. Your divorce lawyer will also be able to identify appropriate and compelling evidence to support your claim for alimony.

Findings of Fact and Abuse of Discretion

Why is providing sufficient evidence so important to your alimony case? Aside from providing a clear and convincing picture of why support is necessary, it can also prevent rulings from being overturned for abuse of discretion. One recent example of this can be found in Putnam v. Putnam[4], a Wake County case involving alimony and child support.

In Putnam, the wife was awarded spousal and child support after being found to be the dependent spouse. However, she appealed based on her belief that the trial court’s amount of alimony was incorrect. Her argument was that the lower court abused its discretion when determining the amount of support.

The Court of Appeals stated that no abuse of discretion exists as long as the lower court considered all relevant factors under the North Carolina statute[5]. Because the trial court made findings of fact based on considerations of each factor that the wife provided evidence for, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Essentially, any alimony amount decisions made by trial judges in North Carolina will not be changed unless an obvious abuse of discretion exists[6].

Family Law Attorneys

Woodruff Family Law Group has decades of legal experience and is uniquely qualified to assist in a variety of family law matters. If you need legal representation for your North Carolina alimony case, our team of compassionate and knowledgeable family law attorneys is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

[1] North Carolina Judicial Branch. Separation and Divorce.

[2] North Carolina General Statute. § 50-16.3A. Alimony.

[3] Id.

[4] Putnam v. Putnam, 278 N.C. App. 667, 863 S.E.2d 291.

[5] Id.

[6] Bookholt v. Bookholt, 136 N.C. App. 247, 249-50, 523 S.E.2d