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With the current difficult economy, it’s more important than ever that couples receive fair treatment under the law when it comes to spousal support. Whether husband or wife, spousal support (also referred to as alimony) is intended to make sure both parties are able to maintain the lifestyle they were accustomed to prior to separation and divorce.  Our Sodoma Law attorneys have outlined four tips for helping you understand and receive a fair judgment for spousal support in North Carolina.

Spousal Support Tips

1) Establish Eligibility
Many people believe that spousal support is a right, but you must recognize that the state of North Carolina establishes eligibility based upon many other factors. One of those factors is marital misconduct.  Marital misconduct encompasses a myriad of acts to include engaging in illicit sexual behavior.  North Carolina law defines “illicit sexual behavior” as “acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse . . . voluntarily engaged in by a spouse with someone other than the other spouse.”  In determining whether either husband or wife has engaged in “illicit sexual behavior”, depending on the circumstances, the court often examines both pre-separation and post-separation conduct as evidence.  This could be critical for any case and can certainly change any opinion one may have on spousal support being considered a “right”.  For example, North Carolina law provides that if you committed adultery during your marriage (prior to your separation), you may lose your right to receive spousal support even if you are financially in need. Furthermore, if you’re the supporting spouse and you commit adultery (prior to your separation), then you will may automatically be required to pay spousal support. Before seeking spousal support, understand whether there has been any infidelity and how it may affect your claim or the defense of a claim filed against you.

2) Make your Case
Many things go into the calculation of spousal support in North Carolina. Unfortunately, there is no alimony calculator or magical equation.  Instead, there are factors a court may consider when understanding your financial needs and the ability of the other spouse to pay those expenses. Some of those factors include:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • Earning capacity of both spouses
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Age
  • Physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses
  • Contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse
  • The ability of each spouse to acquire education or training to become self-supporting

Look at each factor and make a written account of how it affects you financially. If you are the spouse seeking spousal support, consider your earning capacity. You may also want to research whether reentry to the workforce means starting over at a lower pay, with fewer benefits and decreased vacation time.

3) Think Long Term
In most cases, despite popular belief, alimony is not forever.   It is best to come to the table with the expectation that spousal support will eventually expire. Negotiating the best support possible is critical as life circumstances change regularly. For example, for a dependent spouse or homemaker, caring for children may limit your current earnings, but once your children are grown, earning potential may increase. On the other hand, a supporting spouse could experience setbacks in their career, with periods of unemployment, or even a complete career change that could affect the amount of support to be provided. It is always best to have a plan in place to make the best use of the support received because it may be difficult to predict what may happen six months or six years from the time your order or agreement is signed.

4) Reach an Agreement Without the Court
Sometimes the easiest way to get what you want is to go straight to the source. Divorce is difficult. Hashing through the financial process, with affidavits, your testimony, your spouse’s testimony, witness testimony, can be even more trying.  There are hidden benefits to reaching an agreement outside of court. If you and your spouse come to an agreement about alimony, the amount of support is likely to be considered “fair” because both of you agreed to the amount and duration. This also usually yields a more reliable and timely support payment. An out of court settlement will also reduce the amount of time and money spent in court. Start by listing your living expenses and any anticipated expenses that you may incur. Check and review your resources such as credit cards, checking accounts and more so as to get an accurate understanding.

In cases where couples are unable to reach an agreement, it’s  always smart to choose a divorce lawyer who is experienced in negotiating spousal support. At Sodoma Law, our attorneys are not just skilled in their practice, but they are leaders who capably navigate families through the difficult process of obtaining spousal support during a marriage dissolution. Please contact us today at 704.442.0000 if we can be of service to you or those you love.

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