When facing a divorce, it’s important to consider all aspects of your financial situation to properly prepare for the future, including alimony. Although it is less popular than in previous years, the possibility of an alimony order is still prevalent in any divorce case.
Whether you are seeking alimony from your spouse or hoping to avoid these payments, knowing what exactly alimony is, how it is determined and other similar information is crucial to achieving your desired results. That is why our Raleigh alimony lawyers at Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas are here to help. Our dedicated law firm has been serving the community for 60 years and can provide thorough assistance with understanding alimony, determining and negotiating alimony amounts, and all other components involved.
What is Alimony?
Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is essentially financial support paid by a higher-earning spouse, via a lump sum or on a continual basis, to assist the lower-earning spouse. Alimony is often granted to an individual whose spouse of several years earns significantly more money than him or her, causing them to be a dependent.
For example, a parent who remained at the home to raise children while their spouse went to work, and has therefore not been in the workplace for many years, has a good chance of receiving alimony. On the other hand, if both individuals earn around the same amount of money and were only married for a short amount of time, the chances of an alimony order are not likely.
In order for alimony to be issued, the following criteria must be met:
- The spouse seeking alimony must be dependent upon their spouse
- The spouse whom alimony is sought from must be a “supporting spouse”
- The spouse seeking alimony does not earn enough nor have enough resources to adequately meet his or her needs
- The supporting spouse has the ability to adequately provide for both himself and the dependent spouse
If alimony is ordered, the supporting spouse must pay the determined amount each month, or in a lump-sum, until one of the following occurs:
- A date, which the judge designates that is generally years after the alimony is issued, is reached
- The dependent spouse remarries
- All children involved reach the age where a full-time parent at home is not necessary
- A judge decides that the dependent spouse has not taken adequate steps to attempt to become self-supporting after a certain amount of time has passed
- The supporting spouse convinces the judge to alter the paid amount due to a significant life event, such as retirement
- The death of either spouse occurs
Types of Alimony
Depending on the situation, a judge can order different types of alimony.
These types include:
- Separation Alimony. Separation alimony can be ordered if, upon separation, one individual is unable to support themselves. However, this form of alimony ceases when the couple legally divorces.
- Rehabilitative Alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is usually temporarily ordered to help a spouse support themselves until they can do so themselves. The duration and amount paid vary depending on the individual situation.
- Permanent Alimony. Permanent alimony is ordered when support is needed indefinitely. For example, if a spouse is handicapped and unable to work, permanent alimony is likely to be ordered.
- Reimbursement Alimony. Reimbursement alimony is awarded when an individual assisted their spouse in paying for college, or other similar work-related program, which helped them to earn more money. Generally, the alimony lasts until half of the total amount spent is paid back.
- Lump-Sum Alimony. A Lump-sum alimony is usually a specified amount paid in the place of property or other assets which the couple had obtained during their marriage.
As previously mentioned, aside from permanent alimony and lump-sum alimony, the payments last until individually specified by the judge or one of the listed criteria is met.
How is Alimony Determined?
Overall, there are numerous factors that go into determining alimony.
According to the North Carolina statute 50-16.3A, the primary factors considered are:
- Marital misconduct of either of the spouses
- Earnings and earnings capabilities of the spouses
- The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses
- The amount and sources of unearned income of both spouses, such as earnings, dividends, insurance, social security, and medical benefits
- The duration of marriage
- The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse
- 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
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The relative education of the spouses and 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
- The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses
- The property brought to the marriage
- The contribution of a spouse as homemaker
- The relative needs of the spouses
- The Federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award
- Any other factors relating to the economic circumstances of the parties
The judge will analyze all these factors, subsequently determine if alimony is necessary, and, if so, specify an amount.
How Do I Receive Alimony?
In order to receive alimony, a spouse must do one of the following:
- File a legal claim for alimony and successfully win the case
- Negotiate an alimony award with their spouse and draft a formal agreement using legal means, such as a Separation Agreement or Consent order. The formal agreement must specify the terms of the alimony, such as the duration and amount.
Couples are generally encouraged to attempt to determine the terms of alimony themselves via a negotiation process with alimony attorneys before turning to litigation, as a trial can be costly, time-consuming, and stressful. Your attorney should assist you with the entirety of the negotiation process and ultimately help streamline and simplify the process as much as possible. Our Raleigh alimony attorneys at Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas have developed aggressive tactics throughout our years of experience and can ensure that you not only know your rights and are not taken advantage of, but that you also receive the best results possible. However, if you and your spouse are not able to form an agreement and court action is needed, we can also provide exceptional and relentless assistance to achieve the most ideal outcomes.
Can I Avoid Paying Alimony?
Depending on the situation, an individual may be exempt from an alimony claim. However, this is generally only the case when the dependent spouse has committed acts of marital misconduct, which is defined by North Carolina statutes. The marital misconduct must occur during the marriage and prior to the date of separation to be considered as such. However, marital misconduct does not automatically result in alimony exemption. It all still depends on the financial situation of the dependent spouse. If the dependent spouse will be left in a tight financial situation after the separation or divorce, alimony will most likely still be awarded. The judge will, however, take this factor into consideration.
Contact Our Raleigh Alimony Attorneys Today for Superior Assistance
If you are seeking alimony from your spouse, it is important to receive assistance throughout the entire process. Doing so will ensure that you arrive upon a reasonable settlement and that your rights are not violated. Our Raleigh alimony attorneys have helped numerous clients negotiate and receive fair, ideal alimony arrangements and can help you or a loved one do the same. We can also provide assistance with avoiding these charges.
Contact our Raleigh law firm today to schedule your consultation by calling (919) 615-2473 or by completing the contact form below.
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