Spousal Support and Alimony

What is alimony?

Alimony is a payment made from one spouse to the other for maintenance and support. Alimony is typically used when one spouse, the “supporting spouse,” makes more money than the other and the “dependent spouse” needs some financial assistance to adjust to not having the additional income. Alimony can be in the form of a lump-sum payment or multiple, periodic payments, and can last for a brief time or for many years. Alimony is not organized along any guidelines the way that child support is, so amounts and time frames can vary widely.

What other kinds of spousal support exist besides alimony?

Aside from standard alimony, it is also possible to receive post-separation support. Post-separation support is intended as short-term assistance for the “dependant spouse.” A good example of when post-separation support may be useful is when a stay at home parent needs to return to work as a result of the parties’ separation. Once that parent becomes employed, alimony may no longer be necessary depending on the parent’s salary, but post-separation support can cover the gap between separation and obtaining gainful employment.

How do I know if I qualify for alimony?

Couples may independently decide alimony for themselves through a Separation Agreement, but if they are unable to reach a decision on their own, the Courts use several factors in determining alimony, such as:

  • Marital misconduct
  • The income of both parties
  • Expenses of both parties
  • The length of the marriage
  • The relative age and health of both parties
  • The contributions of a spouse towards the education of the other spouse
  • Education level of both spouses
  • Contributions of both parties to the marriage property

Be cautious when establishing alimony through a Separation Agreement without having an attorney review it. Certain language can be used to make it very difficult or impossible to modify alimony later and you may find yourself making payments to your ex-spouse long after they have found gainful employment.

Is fault considered when determining alimony?

Yes. Fault on the part of either party can impact alimony. For example, even if a spouse is dependent, if he or she has committed adultery, then that spouse is not entitled to any alimony. However, if both spouses have committed illicit sexual acts, the Courts may choose to award alimony to the dependent spouse.


Durham County Family Court Rules
Durham County Financial Affidavit
Wake County Family Court Rules
Wake County Financial Affidavit
Wake County Notice of Financial Information Required