The Alimony Crap Shoot, Part III: How Much, How Long, and Fault Factors

Regarding alimony, a prospective client wants to know how much he/she will be paying or how much he/she will be receiving. The initial answer should always be, “It depends.”  The Court looks at 16 possible factors that relate to the amount of alimony awarded.  As paraphrased from NCGS 50-16.3A they include:

  • (2)  The relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses;
  • (4)  The amount of earned and unearned income of both spouses, including, earnings, dividends, and economic benefits;
  • (5)  The duration of the marriage;
  • (6)  The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
  • (7)  The economic effect of a spouse serving as the custodian of a minor child;
  • (8)  The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage;
  • (9)   The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs;
  • (10) The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses including legal obligations of support;
  • (11) The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
  • (13) The relative needs of the spouses;
  • (14)  Tax ramifications of the alimony award;
  • (15)  Any other economic factor that the court finds to be just and proper.

The Court requires a completed financial affidavit and supporting documents to be provided to each party; additional evidence may be presented in court.  The object is to determine the true income and reasonable needs of the spouse.  If he has a positive balance, that sum is his disposable income.  If the dependent spouse’s reasonable needs are more than her income, then the Court will attempt to meet her needs.  Example: If the supporting spouse has excess income of $1,000 and dependent spouse needs $800, then the court can award $800, not more.  If the dependent spouse needs $1,500, the Court could only possibly award the entire $1,000.

Unfortunately, it’s a crap shoot as to what a judge will do.  I’ve attended seminars where judges were given 4-5 fact situations and asked to provide their opinions as to term and amount.  The answers varied considerably.  Sometimes you must go to Court, but it is better to try to retain some control with an alimony agreement.

The family law team at Weaver, Bennett & Bland, P.A. can assist you in obtaining or defending alimony in court or reaching an agreement regarding alimony.