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When a married couple gets a divorce, the court may award "alimony" or spousal support to one of the former spouses, based either on an agreement between the couple or a decision by the court itself. This is separate from the division of marital property and is decided on a case-by-case basis. At Lundell Law Firm, our Union County family law attorney can help you understand your rights related to support during and after divorce.

Many people have questions about alimony vs. child support as well. Alimony is different than child support payments because child support money can only be used for minor children while they are in the custodial parent's care. The following is a discussion of the basics of alimony and spousal support.


Who is entitled to alimony?

“Dependent spouses” are entitled to receive alimony from “supporting spouses.” A dependent spouse is someone who is financially dependent on and in need of support from their spouse, who is then known as the supporting spouse. Husbands and wives can both be either “dependent” or “supporting” spouses.

How much alimony does a dependent spouse receive?

There are no guidelines or formulas in North Carolina law to determine how much alimony a dependent spouse should receive. Instead, the judge determines how much alimony is appropriate after hearing the facts of the case.

How long does alimony last?

There are no guidelines or formulas in North Carolina law to determine how long alimony should last. Instead, the judge decides this depending on the facts of the case. Regardless of the time period initially set by the judge, alimony ends if the dependent spouse remarries or moves in with a new romantic partner, or if one of the parties dies.

What will the judge consider in deciding whether to grant alimony?

By law, judges consider many factors in deciding whether to grant alimony, including how much each party earns and is capable of earning; the age, education, and health of both parties; the length of the marriage; the parties’ property, contributions during the marriage, and needs; marital misconduct; and more. You can view the entire list of factors here.


How does cheating affect alimony?

North Carolina law provides that “illicit sexual behavior” will affect alimony. A dependent spouse who cheated on the supporting spouse before separation loses the right to alimony. A supporting spouse who cheated on the dependent spouse before separation will be forced to pay alimony. If both parties cheated on each other during the marriage, the judge has discretion to decide whether to order alimony. An exception applies if the cheating was “condoned,” or forgiven, by the other spouse.


Can bad actions other than cheating affect alimony?

Yes. Judges also consider other forms of marital misconduct, which include abandonment, cruel treatment, financial misconduct, alcohol or drug abuse, and involuntary separation if one of the spouses is imprisoned. 


Does alimony count as income?

Beginning on January 1, 2019, and affecting alimony granted through a separation agreement signed after that date or a court order entered after that date, alimony is no longer included in the calculation of a dependent spouse’s gross income.



What happens if my ex-spouse doesn’t follow our court order?

If the other party does not follow a court order, you can file a Motion for Contempt and/or a Motion for Order to Show Cause, in which you tell the court what part of the order is being ignored and ask the judge to hold that person in contempt of court. If the judge finds that the other party violated the order, the judge will decide the appropriate penalty. Penalties for contempt of court can include a verbal reprimand, a fine, jail time, or requiring the party in contempt to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees. An attorney can assist you with this process.


What happens if my ex-spouse doesn’t follow our separation agreement?

If your separation agreement was included in a court order, such as your divorce decree, you can ask the court to hold the person in contempt of court (see above). If not, you can enforce your separation agreement by suing your former spouse for breach of contract. An attorney can assist you with this process.

Call at (704)288-4096 or email to set-up an initial consultation to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable Union County family law attorney, contact the Monroe, NC, office of Lundell Law Firm.


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