Often people assume that if alimony is awarded, a husband will have to pay it to his ex-wife. However, based on consideration of certain statutory factors, alimony can also be awarded to an ex-husband and a wife may be required to pay it. In a recent North Carolina alimony appellate decision, a wife appealed from the court’s award of alimony to her husband. The couple had met online. The husband lived in India but moved to the U.S. to be with the wife. They married in India, but separated while living in the States. During the marriage, the wife allegedly subjected the husband to emotional and mental abuse.
The husband sued for divorce and alimony. In 2015, the appellate court had affirmed the lower court’s grant of divorce but reversed its award of alimony. In 2016, the lower court entered an order that awarded the husband alimony, among other things.
The wife appealed the award of alimony. She argued there was no subject matter jurisdiction for the alimony award, claiming that the lower court was required to recognize the annulment she got in India in 2011, one month after the husband sued for divorce. The appellate court explained that neither of the spouses was domiciled in India when she got the annulment, and so the lower court hadn’t made a mistake in not recognizing the annulment. In North Carolina, foreign divorces and annulments don’t need to be recognized where neither party had domicile in the jurisdiction that granted the annulment or divorce. It noted that domicile describes someone’s established and permanent home, and that even if someone has more than one residence, there is only one domicile. Domicile is changed by actual abandonment of some other domicile, intent to stay in a new place indefinitely or permanently or physical residence in a new place.
In this case, the lower court had found the couple was domiciled in the United States when the wife got the annulment. The husband had put down roots and was trying to get a medical degree. The wife also conceded that she was planning to live in the United States at each step of their divorce.
The wife also challenged the alimony order, claiming it was based on factual inaccuracies, not supported by appropriate proof, or related to events in India or other courts of which the lower court had little knowledge. The appellate court explained that alimony is awarded to a dependent spouse based on whether either spouse is dependent and on equitability. In this case, the wife had the ability to earn $114,667, but had left her job through her own actions, and that her testimony to the contrary wasn’t credible. Meanwhile, the husband submitted documents about his poor financial circumstances.
The wife also challenged the amount of alimony, arguing that the 16 statutory factors specified in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.3A showed that the amount of alimony was inequitable and the award wasn’t supported. The lower court had found that the wife had taken steps to ruin the husband’s earning potential in both countries and had been cruel and abusive in the marriage. The wife challenged the retroactive alimony award, but the appellate court reasoned that the lower court was authorized to award it. The lower court’s order was affirmed.
If you are concerned about paying alimony as a result of your divorce, it is important to retain dedicated legal counsel. Call the Woodruff Family Law Group at 336.272.9122 or contact us via our online form.
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