How Much Alimony is Fair?

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How much alimony should I receive or pay?  In North Carolina, (unlike some other states) there is no formula or calculator to determine the amount of alimony one spouse in entitled to receive.  The amount of alimony paid or received is based on your respective incomes and your standard of living during the marriage.  As far as the duration of the alimony, the unwritten “rule of thumb” in this area is for half the length of the marriage.  So if you were married for twelve years, you may be ordered to pay for six years.  However, there are many factors that judges will use to determine the amount and duration of alimony.   A judge has a lot of discretion when ordering alimony, but the order must set forth the reasoning for denying or awarding alimony, the amount, duration, and payment method with finding of facts on the relevant factors set forth in North Carolina General Statute §50-16.3A(b).

Alimony is awarded if the court finds that one spouse is dependent, the other spouse is the supporting spouse and alimony is equitable after considering all relevant factors in the statute.  Dependent spouse is defined as a spouse who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for maintenance and support or is in substantial need of maintenance and support from the other spouse.  If the dependent spouse has engaged in illicit sexual behavior, during the marriage or prior to the date of separation, the court shall award no alimony.  If both spouses have engaged in illicit sexual behavior, then awarding of alimony is at the discretion of the court.

Alimony orders can typically be modified by motion and showing of changed circumstances.  Alimony can terminate if the dependent spouse cohabitates with another or remarries, depending on the language of the order or agreement.

Temporary alimony is referred to as post-separation support.   This type of support is paid after separation but before a decision on alimony is reached.  It is temporary by its nature, and although it is similar to alimony, the analysis is somewhat different.

Once the divorce is finalized, it is too late to ask the court for an order for alimony. While you may think you do not need it or want alimony, it is always best to get as much information from an attorney before making such an important decision.

If you have questions or concerns relating to the topic of this article or any other divorce related legal issue, please reach out to us at 704-243-9693 or at

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