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Post Separation Support & Alimony

Alimony is a payment for the ongoing support and maintenance from one spouse (or former spouse) to another. To be entitled to alimony, the receiving spouse must be substantially in need of support from the other spouse; and the paying party must have a demonstrated ability to pay support.

Thea alimony award is based on the financial needs of the parties, considering the parties' accustomed standard of living during the marriage, their present income(s), their income-earning abilities, debt service obligations, each party’s reasonably necessary expenses, and each party's respective legal obligations to support any other person.

There are sixteen statutory factors that a court should consider in determining the amount and duration of an alimony award. Those factors include the marital misconduct of the parties during the marriage, the relative earning capacity of each party, age and health of spouses, duration of marriage, standard of living during marriage, relative education, relative need, contributions as homemaker, etc. If the dependent spouse committed illicit sexual behavior during the marriage then s/he is barred from receiving alimony; whereas if the supporting spouse committed illicit sexual behavior, s/he must pay alimony.

Post-separation support is essentially “temporary” alimony, in that it is a support award that is meant to be somewhat short term until a court can make an alimony determination. The dependent spouse is entitled to an award of PSS if his/her resources are not adequate to meet his or her reasonable needs and the supporting spouse has the ability to pay. Illicit sexual behavior not a bar to PSS, though it can be considered by a court when making a PSS determination.

While a court has wide discretion in determining the amount and duration of alimony, in settlement people often consider half the length of marriage to be a fair duration, or at least a reasonable starting point for negotiations.

It is important to note that North Carolina does not have an alimony or PSS calculator or formula, making any online calculators that purport to be able to predict the right alimony amount misleading.

Alimony in a court order terminates upon the death of either spouse, or the remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse. Many settlement agreements have similar terminating events written in. Alimony in a court order is modifiable (so long as a motion to modify has been made before the alimony term ends) if there is a substantial change of circumstances warranting a modification. In a settlement agreement, alimony is only modifiable if the agreement says it is and only according to the modification terms written into the agreement. If the agreement is silent about modification, then it is likely not modifiable.

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