TS Sample copy:
Determining the amount and duration of financial support owed to a spouse who is “dependent” on the other spouse (typically because there is a significant disparity in the parties’ incomes) is one of the most challenging aspects of divorce to resolve. In North Carolina, there are no Guidelines for determining spousal support, as there are in the case of child support. Instead, a three-pronged approach is used that involves an analysis of (1) the monthly financial needs of the dependent spouse; (2) the ability of the dependent spouse to contribute to his or her own needs; and (3) the ability of the “supporting” spouse to help make up the shortfall between (1) and (2).
Determination of the monthly financial needs of the dependent spouse requires a detailed analysis of the spending done by or on behalf of the dependent spouse in the year or so prior to the parties’ separation from one another. This typically involves a review of all of the monthly credit card statements, bank account statements, and receipts for the time period at issue and can be quite a tedious task. Once the dependent spouse’s monthly financial needs are determined, the ability of the dependent spouse to contribute to his or her own needs is analyzed by considering his or her net income from employment or other sources. In certain cases, the earning capacity of the dependent spouse is considered even though he or she may not be employed, or may be employed only on a part-time basis. Finally, if the dependent spouse is not able to bring in enough money to meet his or her monthly expenses, the supporting spouse’s ability to help make up the shortfall is considered, after taking into account the amount needed for the supporting spouse’s own monthly expenses and any child support obligations he or she may have.
Spousal support awarded on a temporary basis pending the resolution of the marital property and debt division is called “postseparation support” and is typically awarded for approximately one year. Spousal support awarded once the other marital issues are resolved is called “alimony.” The duration of alimony, like the amount, is in the sole discretion of the presiding family court judge and can vary wildly depending on the facts and circumstances of the case and the particular assigned judge. A good rule of thumb, however, is the longer the marriage, the longer the expected duration of alimony. Many other factors play into the alimony award, including any marital misconduct (e.g., illicit sexual behavior, substance abuse, domestic violence, indignities) on the part of either the dependent spouse or the supporting spouse. Regardless of the duration awarded, alimony terminates upon the death of a party or the remarriage or cohabitation of the dependent spouse.