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Alimony & Post Separation Support

North Carolina law provides for alimony, or spousal support, to be paid on a periodic basis or in a lump sum from the “supporting spouse” to the “dependent spouse”. The dependent spouse is either a husband or wife, who is substantially dependent upon the other spouse for maintenance or support. By having a better understanding of the law and your rights and obligations, you will be able to make informed decisions that address your current and future needs.

Alimony is awarded after consideration of several pertinent factors, including:

  • Marital misconduct of a spouse,
  • Duration of the marriage,
  •  Accustomed standard of living,
  • Relative earnings and earning potential of the spouses,
  • Physical, mental, and emotional age and condition of each spouse,
  • The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of each spouse, including wages, dividends, medical, retirement, insurance, and social security,
  • Assets and liabilities of the spouses, and
  • Contribution of one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse.

Post separation support (spousal support while waiting for an award of alimony) and alimony can be settled out of court via a separation agreement. The court may award alimony or post separation in a lump sum, continuing payments, income withholding, or by transferring title of possession of personal property. Bonds, mortgages, a deed of trust, and any other means ordinarily used to secure an obligation for payment may also be ordered by the court.

The supporting spouse’s income at the time of the alimony trial is used as the basis for earnings. There are legal provisions to address a supporting spouse who attempts to avoid financial responsibility by refusing to find or accept employment, intentionally depressing income to a low figure, or by deliberately leaving employment to enter another business. The alimony decree is enforceable by North Carolina state law and provides for a number of remedies for relief including arrest and bail, wage attachment and garnishment and other civil and criminal contempt laws.

Throughout the alimony process, settlement negotiations should be fully discussed and explained to you. Divorcing spouses are typically unprepared to objectively consider settlement offers, counter offers and other complexities associated spousal support. Some spouses enter into negotiations without a full understanding of what they are entitled to and without an understanding of the financial repercussions. Accepting financial terms in the hopes of expediting the divorce process can cause financial crisis in the future. It is important to understand there may be hidden assets and assess the "real" value of the marital estate and business interests.

Financial disclosure is mandatory in all matrimonial actions. Bank accounts, stock options, deferred compensation plans, real estate, brokerage accounts, foreign accounts, offshore trusts and deferred tax planning devices are all relevant to understanding your spouse’s total financial picture. Some of your partner’s property that is relevant to support considerations may be difficult to find or may be business or professional property that is difficult to valuate. An attorney can obtain the necessary financial information through the “discovery process” to ensure that the court has all of the relevant facts in your alimony case, or to provide a comprehensive financial picture for the best negotiating position. Qualified legal counsel can help you put the legal tools in place to ensure that you and your children are supported financially during and after the divorce.

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Charles R. Ullman & Associates

 

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