A combination of deferred emotional decisions during the fall-winter holidays, deferred financial decisions during this period, and an underlying desire to start the new year with a “clean slate” generally leads to a slight uptick in the number of divorces that are filed in February.
Many practitioners refer to this time period as “divorce month.” Legal and financial professionals have a number of general tips for filers in any month of the year. They advise people to pay attention to the details in these cases and carefully examine some areas that are often overlooked, such as the tax consequences of certain moves and the temptation to trade cash upfront for assets that have significant future values.
These professionals particularly warned against making decisions based on emotion as opposed to economic reality.
Although reforms in various states, especially neighboring South Carolina, have sharply limited the amount and duration of alimony payments in some other states, the rules in North Carolina remain very much unchanged, as the judge has almost unlimited discretion in this area.
That being said, the law does contain a number of factors to assist in the determination. Some of the more important ones are:
- Relative Earning Capacity: Alimony is essentially designed to equalize the standard of living between the spouses by transferring cash from one to the other;
- Marital Misconduct: This “misconduct” nearly always involves infidelity or some other traumatic event;
- Age and Condition of Spouses: This factor is particularly relevant when determining the duration of payments;
- Duration of the Marriage: As a rule of thumb, the longer the marriage lasted, the larger the alimony award; and
- Contributions to the Marriage: This category includes both economic and noneconomic contributions.
Other prominent factors include the custody of minor children, the standard of living established during the marriage, and the overall property division.
In addition to post-divorce maintenance, post-separation maintenance is also available if the court finds that a spouse is unable to meet his or her expenses. These expenses can also include reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Alimony awards are not set in stone, and they can be modified later based on one of two events.
First, a party may show changed circumstances. In this area, the foundation of a successful motion to modify is in the underlying order itself. By specifically enumerating the parties’ financial circumstances at the time of divorce, it is easier to prove that they have changed. Either party may file a motion to modify based on changed circumstances.
The second area is per se termination based on remarriage or cohabitation. Remarriage is a straightforward matter, but cohabitation is somewhat uncertain, as there is no bright-line rule that separates dating from cohabitation. Alimony payments, unlike a child support obligation, also terminate with the death of the obligor spouse.
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Spousal maintenance is alive and well in North Carolina. For a confidential consultation with aggressive family law attorneys in Charlotte, contact Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Convenient payment plans are available.