What happens if you want to separate from your spouse but you don’t have enough money to make it on your own? What happens if you want to separate from your spouse but you are worried you may have to pay your spouse separation support or alimony but the reason you feel you need to separate is because of their marital misconduct or you found out about their paramour? Well this is where the statutes for post-separation support and alimony come into effect. These statutes contain the factors and the grounds for a party to file for these claims, grounds to contest these claims, and how to terminate these claims. However, always remember that if you are planning on going through a divorce, then you need to bring these claims before your divorce is finalized or you will lose the right to claim them forever. These claims do not need to be decided prior to the divorce, but there needs to be an action pending before the final divorce decree or you will lose the opportunity to bring them against your spouse forever.
A claim for alimony is similar to a claim for post-separation support. The difference is that post-separation support is intended to last until it has been ordered to be terminated or until a finding for alimony. Either party may bring a claim for alimony. According to North Carolina General Statute §50-16.3A, the court shall award alimony to the dependent spouse upon a finding that one spouse is a dependent spouse, that the other spouse is a supporting spouse, and that an award of alimony is equitable after considering all relevant factors.
Some of the factors when making a determination for alimony includes, but is not limited to, illicit sexual conduct between the parties, the contribution of the dependent spouse to the supporting spouse for any education or training to increase the supporting spouses earning capacity, the standard of living between the spouses established during the marriage, and several others which may be applicable depending on your case (a complete list of factors can be found in NCGS §50-16.3A).
As with Post-Separation Support, it is best to discuss your situation with an attorney so you can have a full understanding of your claim and what you may or may not be entitled to.
Modification or Termination of PSS or Alimony
Often times people wonder if there is any way to modify or terminate post separation support or alimony. North Carolina General Statute §50-16.9 indicates that there is. The first ground for termination of these claims would be a finding that there has been a resumption of marital relations. If both parties are holding them out to the world as husband and wife again, rather than having isolated incidents of sexual intercourse between the parties, then this could be grounds for termination.
Other grounds for termination or modification can include remarriage or cohabitation of the dependent spouse with another person or upon the death of either of the two parties.
In order to modify alimony under NCGS §50-16.9(c), there must be a showing to the court that there have been changed circumstances. Typically this involves some kind of financial change in circumstances unless you are trying to terminate alimony for any of the reasons listed above.
If you feel like you are entitled to or no longer liable to pay alimony, reach out to a family lawyer today to help you assess the situation and to assist you with moving forward with your claim.
What is post-separation support? Post-separation support is the amount of money that a supporting spouse is ordered to pay a dependent spouse from the date of separation until a hearing for alimony occurs or until another ground for termination of this award occurs (see termination). Generally, the court must find that there is a supporting spouse and a dependent spouse, that the dependent spouse has a need for money in the interim, and that the supporting spouse has the ability to pay. A judge can consider marital misconduct between the parties after separation.
Marital misconduct doesn’t only mean illicit sexual behavior. Marital misconduct can also include, but is not limited to, factors like wasting the martial property (i.e. spending all of the money in the bank account on frivolous things), abandonment of the other spouse, or excessive use of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome (a complete list of other things that will count as marital misconduct can be found in North Carolina General Statute §50-16.1A(3).
While looking at the statute is helpful, it is always best to consult with an attorney who has a thorough understanding of the law and who can help you discuss your situation in detail and to help you with your next steps.