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Determining alimony in North Carolina divorce cases

Divorcing couples in North Carolina and around the country are often unclear about how alimony is calculated. This is a contentious issue that can derail divorce negotiations and lead to protracted legal battles, but understanding why alimony is ordered and how judges approach the matter could help spouses to avoid this pitfall. Discussing the topic unemotionally is especially important when the spouse initiating divorce proceedings will be receiving alimony payments or one spouse earns considerably more than the other.

The length of time that a couple was married is a major consideration when determining spousal support payments. Spouses who have only been married for a few years are rarely awarded alimony, but even spouses who have been married for decades may be denied support in some situations. In North Carolina for example, judges may deny alimony when spouses have committed adultery.

Spouses often must also establish that they are financially dependent on their husbands or wives before judges will consider an alimony award in divorce cases. When people plan to return to a career that they gave up after getting married, a form of spousal support known as rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to help them to cope financially while they transition back into the workforce. While alimony payments are generally made monthly, spousal support can also be paid in a lump sum or by transferring assets during property division negotiations.

Attorneys with family law experience may encourage couples to avoid bitter alimony disputes by entering into post-nuptial agreements. However, they could also advise them to negotiate in good faith and work toward an agreement that is essentially fair. Post-nuptial agreements should also be revisited regularly and updated when incomes have changes. This is important because judges might not accept agreements that are inequitable or do not reflect the couple's current financial situation.

Source: Findlaw, "North Carolina Alimony Laws", accessed on Oct. 9, 2018

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