A separation or divorce can already be a very difficult time for those involved. Adding spousal support and alimony to what is a contentious situation increases the amount of pressure on both sides. Factoring in children makes for an even tougher time. In many cases, during a separation or divorce, one spouse is left in a dire financial situation in which they cannot support themselves. The experts at Lehnhardt Family Law serve the Weddington, North Carolina area and know that this can be a stressful and emotional process and will help you work through this difficult time.
There are two types of spousal support recognized in North Carolina: post-separation support and alimony, and they vary from each other moderately. They are dependent upon the point in the separation or divorce process the two parties are in.
First, it’s important to determine what post-separation support is. Post-separation support is a payment made to a dependent spouse that needs monetary support. It is meant to be a temporary monetary solution, and it takes place after the separation but before court-ordered alimony begins. The payments are regular, often monthly, and are determined by the court. These regular support payments typically cover the dependent spouse’s living expenses as well as other necessities. Post-separation support is meant to be temporary and only in place until a final alimony order is created. It’s often meant to support the dependent spouse until they can acquire the skills, time, or resources necessary to support themselves. Once an order of alimony has been ruled on, the post-separation support automatically ends.
The best way to think about it is that during a separation, the income that had been supporting one household now has to support two. Because this is the case, post-separation support is awarded to the dependent party.
Alimony is the second type of spousal support. Alimony is a longer-term version of spousal support, where the amount of support paid is determined by the length of the marriage and other factors. While post-separation support is concerned with immediate needs, alimony is based on a few different factors, including lifestyle during the marriage and the ability to earn income.
Alimony is also intended as compensation for marital misconduct or monetary sacrifices made during the marriage by the dependent spouse. While it’s not meant as retribution for the conduct during the marriage, it is meant to transfer financial burden onto the party that was the cause of the dissolution.
Post-separation support begins when the spouses separate. It ends immediately when the divorce is finalized. At that time, alimony begins, providing longer-term support to the dependent spouse.
North Carolina State law defines the dependent spouse as either the husband or wife, who substantially depends on their spouse for his or her daily maintenance and support, or who is substantially in need of financial support from their spouse. This is a pretty clear definition. While both spouses may have been working during the marriage, the spouse who financially makes less is considered to be the dependent spouse.
The circumstances that are unique to each situation determine the necessity for spousal support and alimony. The general items that the court will review are:
Spousal support payments are roughly calculated based on a few criteria. Both parties’ gross and net incomes are required, as well as any child support payments, prior support payments, and the number of years married.
The state of North Carolina takes marital misconduct into account when determining alimony payments. Some of these include:
Alimony ends at a set date or in a few circumstances:
In the event of a significant change in circumstances, alimony payments can be adjusted. Either party is free to request a modification to alimony if there are no terms set in the original alimony order. Being able to sort through this with the other party may be a reasonable option if the relationship is amicable.
If the support spouse can no longer afford the alimony payments, they will have to prove a significant change in the financial circumstances for themselves or the other spouse. Some of these significant changes can include:
The parties will have to submit financially related information, including debts, assets, expenses, and incomes.
This complicated area of law can be difficult to manage alone. Meeting with the right attorney can make all the difference. The team at Lehnhardt Family Law is here to help you through what can be a trying and sensitive time.
Our focus is personalized to your individual needs. We recognize that family law can be some of the most challenging times for you and your family. Contact the attorneys at Lehnhardt Price Family Law today to determine your next steps to a brighter future.