How to Determine Alimony

Alimony is often a hotly disputed issue when spouses separate. It is based on the idea that a supporting spouse owes a duty to a dependent spouse to maintain the standard of living during the marriage even after the marriage is over. Originally this meant husbands would have to continue to support their wives who had stayed home to take care of children. However, times have changed, and there is no longer a gender bias in determination of alimony.

So how is alimony calculated? Great question. As an alimony attorney in Raleigh, I’d like to share a few insights.

First of all, the court must determine that one spouse is dependent and the other is supporting. For a spouse to be dependent he or she must be substantially dependent and unable to meet his or her reasonable needs, or he or she must be substantially in need of continued maintenance and support.

The supporting spouse then is one who actually provides support or from whom support is needed. Additionally, in order to be considered a supporting spouse, he or she must be able to address the needs of the dependent spouse.

Once the court determines that one spouse is dependent and the other is supporting the judge has to determine the amount of support. Unlike child support, which is normally determined based on specific numbers plugged into strict worksheets, alimony is up to the discretion of the judge who must base her award on a number of factors. These factors include: the standard of living during the marriage, the incomes of the parties, the reasonable expenses of the dependent spouse, and the ability of the supporting spouse to pay.

Income and expenses are shown through affidavits and testimony of the spouses. In fact, as part of an alimony case each party much provide financial documentation to the other and complete a financial affidavit that lays out the spouse’s income and monthly expenses.

All the factors above are in the discretion of the court in determining the amount of alimony; however, one factor can completely bar alimony or make its award mandatory. This factor is the illicit sexual behavior of one of the spouses. If the court finds that the supporting spouse has an affair before separation then it must order alimony.

On the other hand, if the judge finds that the dependent spouse had an affair before separation then she cannot order alimony. Because adultery is still considered a crime in North Carolina you can “plead the fifth” and not testify when it comes to the question of whether or not you had an affair; however, if you do so as a dependent spouse the court will dismiss your alimony claim.

After the court determines alimony it can award it in a lump sum or in periodic payments (or wage garnishments) that can be for a certain period of time or indefinitely. Regardless of the length of time for which the court awards alimony, alimony must cease when either party dies, or when the dependent spouse remarries or cohabitates with someone. Cohabitation is living with someone you’re having a relationship with.

When it comes to alimony, there are many moving parts and procedural pitfalls to avoid. If you need alimony, you need an experienced family law attorney at Kurtz & Blum, PLLC to help you. Call us today at 919-832-7700 to discuss how we can help you with your alimony claim.