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What you should know about alimony

For North Carolina couples embarking upon the divorce process, alimony figures among the numerous concerns they now face. People want to know if they will have to pay alimony or, conversely, if they may be entitled to receive payments.

Learning some basic facts about alimony can help you get a better idea of what to expect. However, more specific calculations, such as the duration and amount of payments, may depend on your specific circumstances.

How courts decide alimony questions

In North Carolina, courts may award alimony when one spouse has fewer financial resources than the other; thus, there is the supporting spouse who makes more money and the dependent spouse who makes less.

Courts examine several factors when deciding whether to award alimony and determining its terms. Most involve assessing the spouses' respective financial situations. Typical considerations include the couple's regular standard of living, their respective current incomes, their ability to earn more income in the future, reasonable expenses, other legal obligations and debt. In turn, factors relevant to determining such issues as earning potential may include education, work experience, health and whether a spouse gave up opportunities in order to contribute to the marriage.

Fault may still be relevant

The issue of fault continues to complicate North Carolina alimony cases. A dependent spouse must no longer prove misconduct by the supporting spouse in order to obtain alimony. However, certain types of fault can affect the amount of the award or may preclude the dependent spouse from receiving payments.

Alimony and prenups or agreements

Divorcing couples may avoid litigating the issue of alimony by covering it in a prenuptial agreement or a divorce agreement. While courts usually uphold the provisions of such documents, they may set them aside under some circumstances. For example, if a prenup eliminates alimony but one spouse's financial situation at the time of the divorce makes him or her poor enough for public assistance, judges may see fit to order alimony anyway.

When discussing alimony, other concerns may arise, such as tax consequences. Changes in circumstances may necessitate a request for modification of an alimony award or agreement. A qualified lawyer can address your concerns and work to protect your financial interests.

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