We live in challenging times from personal and financial standpoints. We recently posted in this space a blog about the basics of spousal support in North Carolina. Even if an appropriate, affordable amount of spousal support – also called alimony – was awarded according to the parties’ relative resources at the time of the divorce, what happens if the paying ex-spouse loses their job, gets furloughed or can no longer work fulltime because of the economic downturn and they can’t continue to make payments at the original level?
On the flip side, the recipient of alimony payments could also lose a job or partial wages, creating the need for more support.
Whether the terms of the spousal support award originated in a settlement agreement or were judge-crafted, North Carolina law provides for relief in changed circumstances.
State statute allows the dependent spouse (recipient of alimony) or the supporting spouse (payor) to ask the court to modify or terminate the spousal support award if they can provide evidence that circumstances have changed since the original award. Even if a court in another state entered the original alimony order, North Carolina state court may modify it if there is jurisdiction over the parties and the original out-of-state court could have amended the order.
Evidence of changes in circumstances for either party that might support an alimony modification:
- Job loss or reduced wages
- Job promotion or new job with a higher salary
- Increased or decreased expenses
- Disability or illness impacting ability to work or raising medical expenses
- Debt reduction or new debt
- Downsizing of a household due to children becoming adults and moving out
Other grounds to vacate a spousal support order
Certain other circumstances may form the bases for alimony termination:
- Resumption of marital relations (if still married and receiving postseparation support)
- Remarriage of the recipient
- Cohabitation of the recipient in a private, marriage-like relationship
- Death of either party
Legal counsel helpful
It is smart to consult with an experienced North Carolina family lawyer abut issues related to alimony modification and termination. Complex legal issues can sometimes arise such as provisions in the original settlement that may make the award nonmodifiable. An attorney can answer questions about a client’s particular situation concerning a motion to modify alimony, whether the person is the supported spouse or the supporting spouse, and whether the award would likely increase or decrease.