Winston-Salem & Greensboro Spousal Support Attorneys
Providing help with alimony and support matters in the Piedmont Triad
Whether a couple was married for five years or 50, a divorce can cause significant financial change for both spouses. Preparing to live separately after living together may be a legitimate cause for concern – you may be worried about how you will get by without your spouse’s contributions, or you may be worried that supporting your spouse will strain your finances.
When going through a divorce, the attorneys at Hartsoe & Associates, P.C. provide knowledgeable guidance regarding spousal support and other related issues. We can help you work through all matters related to your divorce with efficiency and respect, and help you move toward the future feeling confident. Call us today.
What is spousal support in North Carolina?
If you and your spouse are separated or seeking a divorce, typically spousal support (also called alimony) will be part of your divorce agreement. Alimony is money one spouse pays to another spouse after divorce to lessen any financial hardship after the divorce.
One of the most important parts of a divorce is determining not only whether or not alimony should be paid, but how much and for how long.
How does the court determine who pays alimony?
Spousal support is not automatically awarded to either spouse just because the marriage is ending. The primary factor in awarding a spouse alimony in a divorce is financial need. The court typically awards one spouse alimony when the lack of support would prevent him/her from maintaining an acceptable standard of life post-divorce.
Some situations where a court will consider alimony include when one spouse:
- Earns significantly less than the other spouse
- Gave up a career during the marriage to care for the family home or children
- Took a lower-paying job during the marriage to support the other spouse in starting a business or earning an educational degree
- Left a job or career to care for a sick child or family member
- Has limitations on earning ability due to health, age, or lack of education
The court has no formal rules about how long a spouse may pay or receive alimony, and can use its discretion as to when it will end. Once a decision is made regarding who pays and receives alimony, payments can be made in installations or in one lump-sum payment – you and your spouse can decide between yourselves what arrangement works best.
Typically, spousal support halts if one spouse dies, if the receiving spouse remarries or moves in with a new partner, or if there is an end date in the alimony court order. The court may also modify an alimony order later down road if circumstances allow.
Are there different types of spousal support in NC?
Yes – the North Carolina courts offer two types of spousal support.
Post-separation support is a temporary support the courts award to a spouse during the period the court evaluates his/her alimony claim. Post-separation support ends when:
- The court grants alimony
- The support order ends
- A judge dismisses the spousal support claim
- The court enters the divorce judgement with no alimony claim from either party
- The dependent spouse remarries or moves in with a new partner
- Either spouse dies
Alimony, on the other hand, is the more permanent type of spousal support. Once awarded, it can go on indefinitely or for an amount of time specified in your divorce agreement.
What factors can affect spousal support?
Winston-Salem and Greensboro courts take a wide variety of factors into consideration when determining spousal support – who gets it, who pays it, and how much. These things can include:
- Earning capabilities of each spouse
- Length of the marriage
- Lifestyle and standard of living during the marriage
- Property and assets acquired during the marriage
- If either spouse has unique needs or disabilities
- Each spouse’s age, physical, and mental health
- Whether or not marital misconduct occurred (including adultery, reckless behavior, domestic violence, or financial fraud)
- Other economic factors affecting a spouse’s ability to support him or herself
The courts and judges do not follow any specific formula when awarding support, but take into account factors like the above and work toward finding something beneficial for both spouses.
What happens if my ex-spouse doesn’t pay alimony?
Your spousal support should always be part of your divorce agreement filed with the court, so it is legally enforceable. If the paying spouse refuses to pay alimony, or does not pay alimony according to court order, the receiving spouse can file a motion for contempt, which asks a judge to enforce the support agreement. It is at the judge’s discretion to lay down penalties or even jail time to the non-paying spouse.
However, a spouse who does not pay alimony according to court order can indeed be found in contempt by the court – resulting in fines, penalties, and jail. Further, each missed or late payment may be its own separate charge. If the paying spouse cannot pay support due to changed circumstances, like loss of job or ill health, he or she can file for a modification to the alimony agreement.
Regardless, a spousal support order is a court order and should be viewed as such. If your spouse is not holding up their end of the alimony agreement, or you are having trouble meeting your obligations, it is important to consult with an attorney immediately.
Can I change my spousal support payment?
You may petition the court to modify your alimony payment if either you or your spouse have had a significant or material change in circumstances. This can include things like a loss of job, an increase in income, a change in living circumstances, and other factors. Our attorneys strongly advise that, if you and your ex-spouse wish to adjust your alimony, you do it through a court order and not an informal “handshake” agreement. This way you both will avoid disputes in the future.
Spousal support and alimony lawyers serving NC
The family law attorneys at Hartsoe & Associates, P.C. bring over two decades of experience to the table. If you are considering a divorce, we can answer all of your questions, ease your concerns, and provide strong representation. We proudly serve families and clients in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, as well as the Piedmont Triad. To schedule a consultation with an experienced lawyer, please call 336-725-1985 or fill out our contact form.