Alimony and post-separation support are the two types of financial support awarded from one spouse to another.  Alimony can be awarded to a financially dependent spouse from a financially supporting spouse. Post-separation support is often referred to as temporary alimony since it is paid during separation as temporary support before permanent alimony is awarded.  Alimony is awarded after post-separation support ends, usually after the division of assets. 

Spousal support is not meant to be punitive in nature but rehabilitative to a spouse who is a financial dependent. Failure to timely make a request for spousal support before the entry of an absolute divorce order can result in the loss of the ability to obtain support. With the long-term implications of missing crucial deadlines, it is important that you seek the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney to protect your financial future immediately.

How is Spousal Support Determined? 

Unlike child support, there are no guidelines to calculate a spousal support amount in North Carolina. Judges are provided with very broad discretion as to both the amount and duration of an award for spousal support. Both alimony and post-separation support may be granted to the dependent spouse if that person lacks resources to provide for their reasonable needs and the supporting spouse has the ability to provide it. There are approximately 16 specifically named factors that the court considers, including the following:  

  • The length of the marriage; 
  • The ages of the spouses, and their physical, mental, and emotional health;
  • The earnings, earning potential, education, unearned income, and assets available to the parties for the party’s support; 
  • The marital standard of living, current needs of the parties for reasonable expenses and debt payments and their ability to provide for those expenses; 
  • Marital misconduct by either spouse; 
  • Contributions during marriage to the other spouse’s education, career and/or business; including the education of each spouse that contributes to their potential earning capacity  and/or assets or financial contributions to the marriage; and
  • Any other relevant factor.

Difference between Post-Separation Support and Alimony 

Post separation support is meant to be temporary support which is paid until the parties divorce or there is a determination of permanent alimony or until a date set by a judge making the original determination.  The main difference between the factors that are considered for each type of support is misconduct. In a determination for post-separation support, misconduct can be considered but is not a controlling factor, as the controlling factor is primarily financial need.  In permanent alimony determinations, misconduct is a factor that is heavily considered, and the misconduct of a dependent spouse can result in a bar to alimony being awarded, even if post-separation support was originally awarded. 

Post-Separation Support, Alimony and Taxes: 

For all alimony awards granted after December 31, 2018, post-separation support and alimony payments are no longer taxable for the dependent spouse or tax-deductible for the supporting spouse. This change in the law requires consideration in how to structure the amount and duration of alimony payments as alimony is taxed at the higher rate of the payor.  While the amount awarded to a dependent spouse may be lower, the overall tax implications for the supporting spouse may be worse.   

Termination or Modification of Alimony 

Spousal support is normally terminated in the event of death of either the dependent or supporting spouse, cohabitation by the dependent spouse, or reconciliation of the parties.  An order or agreement for spousal support can provide a specific time that payments will terminate, such as when a specific amount is paid or within a designated time frame. Alimony awarded by a court can be modified based upon a substantial change of circumstances of either party.  Those circumstances can include the loss of a job or an increase in a party’s income. Let experienced attorneys help you determine if your circumstances warrant a modification of an existing alimony award.

If you are seeking or defending a claim for spousal support, we understand the financial impact that divorce has and can guide you through the process. We will listen to the details of your matter, explain what the court will require as factors to be considered, and advise you on how those facts can be used to protect your interest. 

At Stroud & Panetti, P.C., we have over 30 years of experience in representing and protecting our clients interests in the Winston-Salem area.  We understand the emotional and financial strain of divorce. We are well-versed in all matters of property division and spousal support and can advocate on your behalf to ensure that your rights are protected and your financial future is secure. If you need post-separation support and/or alimony or are defending against claims of spousal support we can assist you. Call us today for a consultation at 336-724-2600.