Is Alimony Automatic in Divorce Situations?

Separation and divorce are usually stressful situations. Even when mutually agreed upon, there can still be certain points that are unclear. Alimony is one aspect of divorce that many people don't have an accurate understanding of, although state law specifies the parameters under which these monies are awarded.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is what is commonly referred to as spousal support. It is court-ordered payments from one spouse to the other spouse as a means of financial assistance due to separation or divorce.

Many people have the idea that alimony is automatic in divorce cases. This is inaccurate as specific standards must be met to qualify for alimony. Additionally, there is also the belief that the woman in a relationship is always the partner that is awarded alimony in divorce situations, but this is an outdated notion. Firstly, this assumption doesn't consider same-sex couples, and secondly, it presumes that men are not entitled to alimony; this, however, is not the case as either spouse can receive alimony. Although the court does look at several factors when determining who is entitled to receive alimony, the sex of the spouse is not one of those factors that regulate eligibility.

Making a Determination for Alimony

Depending on your state, the court will most likely first use specific measures to determine if you are eligible to receive alimony. If you meet your state's criteria, then the court will decide the amount of your award.

North Carolina Law

North Carolina law has several statutes that govern spousal support/alimony. To be eligible for alimony in the state, a spouse must be 'substantially dependent' and 'substantially in need of support.' This basically means that one party (the dependent spouse) cannot (1) meet their own financial obligations or (2) maintain the same standard of living prior to the separation/divorce and without the other party's (the supporting spouse) financial assistance and would thus be entitled to receive support.

However, these benchmarks of being 'substantially dependent' and 'substantially in need of support' are baseline eligibility criteria. There are other considerations that affect how much and how long you may receive support.

Factors Affecting the Amount and Duration of Support

Once it is determined that you should receive support, the court will decide the amount of your award. This will involve looking at your current income as well as your income potential, meaning how much you are likely able to earn based on your education and skills.

The support you receive can be for a specified length of time or maybe indefinite. Below are some factors that may influence the court's decision about the duration of your support:

  • Marital misconduct
  • The physical, mental, and emotional conditions of you and your spouse
  • The ages of you and your spouse
  • Length of the marriage
  • The contribution of one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Both the earning and earning capacities of you and your spouse
  • Relative needs of both you and your spouse
  • Any other economic factors the court deems relevant

Generally, alimony is dispersed in a single lump-sum payment or periodic installments. As mentioned above, there may be an end date to alimony unless a judge does not deem it appropriate.

Finding an Experienced Divorce Attorney

When separation or divorce happens, it can be an uncertain and scary time. Getting the information that can help you understand what steps to take next is essential. If you need to make an alimony claim or defend against an unreasonable claim, contact the Law Office of Jana K. Jones to discuss your case.