NC Spousal Support (aka Alimony)

The payment of alimony in North Carolina is governed by statute and case law.  Because North Carolina follows the partnership theory of marriage, the obligation to pay alimony is based on the premise that both spouses have an obligation to support each other financially during the marriage.  Alimony, or spousal support, is the extension of this obligation after the parties have divorced.

Marital miscounduct can have a profound impact on your ability to receive, or obligation to pay, spousal support.  If infidelity is at issue in your case, click here to read about the potential implications.

Different Terms for Alimony

Alimony is a general term that refers to the order for payment of the support and maintenance of a spouse or former spouse.  Alimony can be paid in periodic payments or in a lump sum payment, and may be for a specified period or for an indefinite term.  Spousal support is the equivalent of alimony.

Post-separation Support is spousal support that is paid after the parties have separated until the earlier of any of the following:  1) The date specified in the order for post-separation support; 2) The entry of an order awarding or denying alimony; 3) The dismissal of an alimony claim; 4) The entry of a judgment of absolute divorce if no claim of alimony is pending at the time of entry of the judgment of absolute divorce; or 5) The dependent spouse remarries or cohabitates, or either the payor spouse or dependent spouse dies.

When Alimony is Awarded in North Carolina

For a court to determine that an award of alimony is appropriate, a two step analysis must be performed.  First, the court must make a preliminary finding that there is a dependent spouse and a supporting spouse.  Next, the court must look to the statutory factors to determine whether an award of alimony is equitable after considering all the relevant statutory factors.

Because alimony may entail large sums of money or the transfer of substantial wealth, legal representation to protect your rights will be a good investment. Additionally, if you believe that you have assets that may be subject to litigation in a dissolution of marriage (divorce) proceeding, you are again reminded that obtaining legal counsel in these complicated issues may be worth the effort and the money.  Contact Cary Divorce Attorney James Hart to schedule a divorce assessment.

  • Cydne Jones

    If a divorced spouse refuses to pay agreed upon alimony specified in a legal seperation agreement that was notorized by both parties how can it be collected?

    • James Hart, Esq.

      This would typically be done through a breach of contract action in North Carolina, assuming that there is no outstanding court order.

  • Melinda

    If someone has already received a divorce, can they come back a year or so later and ask for alimony?

    • jameshartlaw

      Great question Melinda. Unfortunately, if your divorce has gone final and you do not have a pending claim for alimony at the time your divorce is finalized, then a North Carolina court does not have jurisdiction to award you alimony. I recommend you contact a lawyer if you have additional, specific questions about your unique situation. Thanks!

  • Laura

    If you don’t have cash, can you give other items, such as stock, as payment of your alimony debt?

    • jameshartlaw

      Alimony is typically paid in cash. I suppose someone could sell other assets to satisfy the obligation if necessary.

  • Kalinda

    If my Separation Agreement/that was Incorporated into the divorce, states that my monthly spousal support amount is based on my “salary” and I receive a profit sharing bonus from my job, does the bonus amount become part of my salary whereby a new calculation should be made? Am I obligated to share my bonus, which is not guaranteed?

    • jameshartlaw

      Hi Kalinda –

      Thank you for your comment. To properly answer your question, a lawyer would need to review your agreement. You mention that the agreement was incorporated into the divorce, which is atypical. If that was in fact the case, the alimony amount is modifiable if there is a change in circumstances. Your incorporated agreement is going to govern what should happen in your situation.

      Sorry I can’t be more helpful than that. Good luck, and let us know if you need additional assistance.


  • Lynne Gallo

    My separation agreement states “alimony until remarriage”, can I lose it if cohabitating?

    • jameshartlaw

      Hi Lynne,

      That’s a legal question which I am unable to answer directly in this forum. However, I will tell you that if you cohabitate there is a legitimate risk that your ex-husband could terminate your alimony payments.

      There are a number of issues involved here and a North Carolina family law attorney would have to review your entire agreement to give you a definitive answer one way or another.


  • Jenny

    what is the average alimony and child support amount? I am currently in school and cant work. I have a 2 year old daughter. Husband wants a divorce. How much he has to pay to support us while I am in school?

    • jameshartlaw

      Hi Jenny – That would depend on a number of factors, including how long you were married, how much your husband earns, whether you were employed before school (and how much you earned), how much health insurance is for you and your daughter (and who is paying it), whether you have to pay for daycare while you are in school, etc. I recommend you speak with a family law attorney to get these questions answered.

      Sorry I can’t provide you anymore guidance than that. Bottom line – it’s complicated.

      Jim Hart

  • Susan B

    I have alimony for 15 years or remarriage. My ex somethimes stops my payments to cause me to lose my vehicle or get evicted. If he does this again to me, I will have to go to Viriginia to my Mom’s till I can get into court. Am I at risk of losing my alimony just having to leave the state.Is there something I can file to prevent my alimony from being voided.

    • jameshartlaw

      Hi Susan,

      How you proceed depends on whether you have a separation agreement or court order that provides for your alimony payment. You probably should talk to a family law attorney for assistance now, before your ex is late with another payment. It’s possible that a lawyer could send him a letter letting him know that further late payments would not be tolerated or else you will seek legal action. Just a thought.

      Good luck,
      Jim Hart

  • Kathe

    My former spouse pays alimony every month, but it is always late. I depend on the alimony to pay my rent. Is there anything I can do legally to get him make the payments on time?

    • jameshartlaw

      Hi Kathe – I suppose it would depend how late he is. Is he just a couple days late or his he 30 days late? If it becomes a problem and he starts falling behind then there are enforcement mechanisms that you could use. Is he court ordered to pay you or did you merely sign a separation agreement?

      • Kathe

        I’m sorry if this is a repeat – I replied already but it seems to have disappeared. There is a court order, and it is only late by 2 or 3 days, but it is practically every month. Out of 10 payments, 8 have been late. It is a complete control issue obviously done purposefully. The alimony is my main source of income and I depend on it to pay my rent. When it is late, my rent is late. Is there anything I can do? Thank you for your help.

        • jameshartlaw

          Hi Kathe – That’s a difficult situation. I would make your landlord aware of what is going on at a minimum. In terms of your legal options – an attorney would need to know more about your original agreement. I recommend paying for a consult to get all your questions answered.

  • Cindy

    My son’s wife just left him stating she just wants to be single. She is an RN making about $45000 and my son is currently on workers comp disability for an injury incurred 3 years ago as a prison guard. He only brings in less than $23000 a year. He is dealing with enough trying to heal and now this. He is going to really be strapped financially with her moving out. Could he be entitled to spousal support?

    • jameshartlaw

      Hi Cindy, It is entirely possible that he could be entitled to spousal support – but would depend on a number of factors. He would need to speak with a lawyer to go over his personal situation.

      Thanks for your questions – Jim

  • Charlie

    Hi, I live in NC and I was married 10 years ago. My wife walked out of our house (on her own to VA) after 21 months of our marriage life with me, due to irreversible differences of opinion. And she took our son along with her, when he was 11 months old baby. I am living by my self since last 8 years and I do not have any other relationship. She withdraws $600 per month, for our son, from our joint account. Also I am paying full medical, dental, vision insurances to both of them since last 8 years. I am visiting my son every month since last 8 years and buying the necessary things for him. We are living apart, We are NOT separated officialy so far and absolutely there is NO relationship between us. My question is, how easy to get a divorce in my case. If I need to pay any alimony, How long would I need to pay that to her.

    • jameshartlaw

      Hi Charlie,

      You can file for divorce anytime you want in North Carolina. With regards to the alimony question, it would be hard to say yes or no without sitting down and talking through your individual situation. If you are in the Raleigh/Cary area, I would be happy to meet with you to walk you through the process.

      Thanks for the comment,

  • nmwllms

    I am divorced and i have an alimony agreement that is in the divorce decree. my ex is now stop paying. what can i do to get my past due alimony?

    • jameshartlaw

      Sounds like you may need to file something in Court. A NC divorce lawyer would need to look through your documents and can advise you as to what you need to file.

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