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Statute:N.C.G.S. § 50-16.3A
DescriptionAlimony provides temporary financial support to a spouse that relied on the other's income during the marriage.
TakeawayAlimony is typically about 15-40% the gap in income between the spouses for 40-60% the duration of the marriage.

Alimony is temporary financial support paid by a breadwinner to a spouse that depended on them financially during the marriage. It is intended to supplement the dependent spouse's income while they transition to financial independence. Alimony is more heavily litigated than many other claims, because the rules for determining alimony are subjective and open to interpretation.

Qualifying for Alimony

A spouse qualifies for alimony if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • They are either substantially dependent on the other spouse for their maintenance and support or substantially in need of financial support.[1][2]
  • An alimony award is fair based on all of the facts and circumstances, including the 16 factors listed below[3]
  • The spouse asking for alimony has not engaged in sexual acts that were (a) during the marriage, (b) prior to separation, and (c) outside the marriage
    (except if a spouse consents to sex outside the marriage and if both spouses cheated, whether to award alimony is up to the judge's discretion)
  • The breadwinner spouse can afford to pay alimony

Amount and Duration

The amount and duration of monthly alimony payments are determined by whatever a judge feels is fair based on 16 factors and whatever the judge feels is relevant.[4] In many cases, the gap in income between the spouses, any marital misconduct, and the duration of the marriage are the most important factors. Alimony payments of about 20-40% the gap in income between the spouses for half the duration of the marriage are common.

All 16 Factors Directly from the Statute

(b) Amount and Duration. - The court shall exercise its discretion in determining the amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony. The duration of the award may be for a specified or for an indefinite term. In determining the amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:

  1. The marital misconduct of either of the spouses. Nothing herein shall prevent a court from considering incidents of post date-of-separation marital misconduct as corroborating evidence supporting other evidence that marital misconduct occurred during the marriage and prior to date of separation;
  2. The relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses;
  3. The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses;
  4. The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of both spouses, including, but not limited to, earnings, dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security, or others;
  5. The duration of the marriage;
  6. The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
  7. The extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child;
  8. The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage;
  9. The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs;
  10. The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support;
  11. The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
  12. The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
  13. The relative needs of the spouses;
  14. The federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;
  15. Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper.
  16. The fact that income received by either party was previously considered by the court in determining the value of a marital or divisible asset in an equitable distribution of the parties' marital or divisible property.

Other Notes

The dependent spouse will generally be expected to find employment prior to their first court hearing. Otherwise, a judge will often determine alimony based on what they believe the financially dependent spouse could be earning if they more fully applied themselves, rather than their actual income. Many spouses that have been a homemaker for many years struggle with this transition to being their own independent bread-winner. However, alimony is intended to be a temporary supplement to income they are expected to make on their own.

Temporary alimony is called postseparation support (PSS). Postseparation support is often filed with alimony as a way to get immediate financial assistance until the alimony claim is taken to trial. However, this temporary alimony is subject to different rules and criteria, described on the postseparation support page on this wiki.

See Also

Contact an Attorney

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  1. § 50-16.1A(2), (5) (defining "dependent spouse" and "supporting spouse")
  2. § 50-16.3A(a) (stating the requirement for a dependent spouse and supporting spouse)
  3. § 50-16.3A(a)-(b) (sub-section (b) lists all of the factors mentioned in sub-section (a))
  4. § 50-16.3A(b). "In determining the amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including..."