Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “When do you get alimony?”
If your marriage is headed for divorce, there is little you can do to avoid an alimony award. However, judges in North Carolina do not automatically order alimony in every divorce case.
Even if a judge orders spousal support payments, you may still be able to file a request to modify alimony. Speak with a Charlotte alimony attorney at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to discuss ways to avoid paying alimony or help you modify an existing alimony order.
If you wish to avoid an alimony award in North Carolina, you need to understand what factors are used to determine whether or not a spouse will be awarded alimony in a divorce case.
Are You Able to Pay Alimony?
Under North Carolina G.S. § 50-16.5, courts must consider all relevant factors when determining whether to award alimony, the duration of spousal support payments, and the amount of alimony.
One of the factors is “the relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses.” It means that the court must consider the dependent spouse’s need for alimony as well as the other spouse’s ability to pay spousal support after divorce. In North Carolina, a judge may not order an alimony award if you earn less than your spouse or your earnings are the same.
Note: You cannot quit your job voluntarily or accept a job with lower pay to avoid alimony.
Do You Have a Separation Agreement?
If you and your spouse signed a separation agreement, it might be used to eliminate alimony. The separation agreement must contain an express provision that waives alimony and/or post-separation support.
Note: A separation agreement is valid if both parties have voluntarily signed the agreement, and both of their signatures are notarized. Also, the parties must sign the agreement at or after their separation to be deemed valid.
Did Your Marriage Last Long?
The other factor that is considered by North Carolina courts when awarding alimony is “the duration of the marriage.” As a rule of thumb, if your marriage lasted long (20 years or longer), you are more likely to be ordered to pay spousal support. However, if your marriage was short, it may be easier to avoid an alimony award in North Carolina.
Did Your Spouse’s Marital Fault Contribute to the Divorce?
North Carolina family law no longer requires parties to prove marital fault to obtain a divorce or be entitled to alimony. However, state law still considers the parties’ marital fault when determining spousal support.
Thus, if your spouse’s marital misconduct contributed to the downfall of your marriage, you could consider pursuing a fault-based divorce as a possible way to avoid an alimony award.
Can You and Your Spouse Agree Outside of Court?
If you are pursuing an uncontested divorce in North Carolina and you are able to reach a mutually acceptable divorce settlement without a judge, you may agree that post-separation support and alimony are not necessary.
Note: If you and your spouse can agree outside of court, you will still need to sign a formal agreement that waives your spouse’s right to alimony.
Contact our family lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to review your unique situation and determine whether there is anything you can do to avoid an alimony award in your case. Contact our family lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to talk about your case. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.
The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.
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