Freedom Law – North Carolina

Alimony/Post separation Support

Laws concerning divorce can vary across states, but in North Carolina, two primary types of spousal support may be awarded to one party of a separation: one is called alimony, and the other is known as post-separation support, or PSS.

If you’re considering divorce or starting divorce proceedings, you may be wondering — what’s the difference between alimony and post-separation support in North Carolina? At Freedom Law | North Carolina, we’ve helped countless clients protect their interests before and after their marriage has ended and during the process of divorce.

Understanding Post-Separation Support

Alimony is widely understood to be a regular payment from a “supporting spouse” to a “dependent spouse” after a marriage has ended in cases where one party has disproportionately supported the household during the marriage.

However, the process of dissolving a legal union can be messy and drawn-out to the point where a separation has occurred long before the divorce is finalized. Many states don’t have options for support during this time, but North Carolina does. It’s called post-separation support.

North Carolina General Statute 50-16.2A states that a spouse can receive post-separation support when the following conditions are met:

  • The parties involved were legally married
  • The spouse requesting support is the “dependent” spouse
  • The party that would be providing support is the “supporting” spouse
  • The supporting spouse has the income to support the dependent spouse, who does not

If a separation fits these conditions, the court may rule that the dependent spouse is owed regular payments until alimony begins, the dependent spouse’s income increases to a suitable level, the marriage is reconciled (ending the separation), or the temporary limit on the PSS runs out.

Post Separation Support vs. Alimony

There are several key differences between alimony and post-spousal support in North Carolina:

  • Alimony is awarded when the divorce is finalized, while PSS can be awarded before proceedings even start.
  • PSS is awarded for a very short period of time — usually no more than 12 months — while alimony is a longer-term form of spousal support.

In addition, since post-spousal support is a short-term temporary form of assistance, it’s harder to appeal. PSS is also based more on the immediate need for support by one party in a separation, while alimony can be a ruling on long-term earning potential, lifestyle, and other factors.

Types of Alimony in North Carolina

While post-separation support is relatively straightforward, there are a few different types of alimony available in North Carolina. The first is called lump sum alimony, in which the amount awarded to the dependent party is paid out in a single transaction up front.

The next is modifiable alimony. In this agreement, the amount can be modified after certain qualifying events. Most commonly, this means a change in the income or family circumstances of one of the parties involved. Permanent alimony is simple — it means that alimony is paid for the remainder of the parties’ lives or until a factor is met for the termination of payments.

There is also an arrangement called temporary alimony, which is often confused with post-separation support. The difference is that PSS can be awarded before the divorce is finalized and alimony proceedings begin. Temporary Alimony follows the other conventions of alimony, but it’s awarded on a temporary basis.

Factors in Alimony and Spousal Support

To ensure that alimony is awarded as fairly as possible, there are a number of factors under North Carolina law that may change the amount of alimony awarded, or whether it’s even relevant in a given divorce.

A key factor in determining an alimony award is income, but this isn’t limited simply to the employment income that one spouse makes in a year from working. The court will also consider debts, investments, savings, and property, including anything either spouse owned previous to the marriage as well as how the property was divided during a divorce agreement. They’ll also consider earning potential based on education and training.

Another key factor is the length of the marriage and the standard of living established before the separation, as well as the relative financial needs of each spouse based on their new living situation.

Alimony and Post-Separation Support Payments

For both alimony and post-separation support in North Carolina, payment can be awarded in multiple forms based on the needs and preferences of the parties involved. In most cases, payments are in the form of checks or money orders because these forms are traceable if the need to verify the agreement arises.

To sum it up:

  • Alimony is an order for payment for the support and maintenance of a spouse or former spouse for a specified or for an indefinite term. It may be paid in a lump sum or periodically. North Carolina courts may award both temporary and permanent alimony after a finding that one spouse is a supporting spouse and the other spouse is a dependent spouse. The supporting spouse has the ability to pay support to the dependent spouse.
  • In North Carolina, a dependent spouse is a spouse who is actually financially dependent upon the other for his or her maintenance and support or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse. Marital misconduct may affect your ability to receive or require you to pay support.
  • After determining a dependent spouse and a supporting spouse, the court will consider multiple factors to determine the amount of support to be awarded. The most notable of these factors is the lifestyle and status of living maintained during the marriage and the length and duration of your marriage.

Multiple forms of spousal support are available after a divorce in North Carolina, and it may be a confusing area to navigate in addition to the emotionally stressful process of the divorce itself. If you are facing a separation and divorce in North Carolina, Freedom Law | North Carolina will review all of the factors with you and determine which, if any, apply to your case.

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