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How is Alimony Calculated in North Carolina?

A couple files for divorce and one party seeks alimony support in North Carolina.

Alimony is the monetary support a higher-earning spouse provides to the other during and after a divorce.

So, how is alimony calculated in North Carolina? In North Carolina, alimony or spousal support means that one spouse helps the other financially so they can maintain their standard of living after the marriage ends. To calculate alimony in North Carolina, courts consider numerous factors like earnings, debts, and real estate property. The court may assign you alimony or let you decide if you prefer to receive it.

If you file for divorce in North Carolina, your case must meet certain statutory criteria for alimony. If it does not meet these standards, then judges cannot award alimony in that case. This article explores how the legal system can calculate spousal support or alimony in North Carolina so you can understand how it works before talking with an attorney about your divorce case.

How does Alimony Work?

Alimony orders are about supporting two households. After a couple divorces, spouses should be financially independent. However, it does not always work out that way. Often one spouse may earn less than the other or have more dependents that require financial support. If one spouse needs financial support after a divorce, he or she may request a court to award alimony. While alimony is not guaranteed, it is possible to receive spousal support through the court system.

The courts will decide if one spouse can receive spousal support and how much that person should receive. Different factors affect alimony. For example, if one spouse has a serious illness or disability, they may receive more alimony than they would if they were healthy.

Types of Alimony Payments

Family law in North Carolina differentiates between several types of alimony payments.

Post-separation Alimony

Post-separation alimony or spousal support is money one spouse pays to the other while they wait to finalize the divorce process. These types of support payments are short-term, as opposed to the alimony that is awarded after the divorce process has been finalized.


Alimony is the long-term financial support one spouse provides the other after a divorce. North Carolina family law distinguishes between rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent alimony.

Rehabilitative alimony is money one spouse pays the other for a specific amount of time to allow the dependent spouse to get back on their feet financially. A court may require one spouse to pay alimony to help the other spouse finish education or get training. That will help during the stressful time of divorce and later present better career opportunities and enable self-supporting.

Durational alimony is the long-term financial support one spouse pays the other. A court may consider several factors to decide the support obligation for durational alimony. These factors include the length of the marriage and the health and employment situation of each spouse.

Permanent alimony is the long-term financial support one spouse pays the other. A court may require one spouse to pay permanent alimony to the other spouse to help the other spouse maintain their standard of living, if the receiving spouse is unable to have appropriate employment, or their future earning capacity is at stake.

Child support

When people talk about child support, they are usually referring to the court-ordered payments one parent makes to the other to cover the cost of the child. When a couple divorces in North Carolina, they must first decide who will have custody of their child(ren) and who will pay child support.

In NC family law, child custody most often goes to the mother. In some cases, though, the parties may agree that the children stay with the father if the mother is unable to care for the children in any way. In this case, the child support may or may not be awarded to the primary caretaker.

What Is Considered When Determining Alimony?

Courts in North Carolina consider numerous factors when determining alimony, including:

  1. Your income - Both your gross income and your net income are important factors courts consider when determining if you’re entitled to alimony and how much you’re entitled to receive. If you’re the lower-earning spouse, your divorce attorney can present you as the party seeking maintenance.
  2. Your spouse’s income - Your spouse’s net income is another factor courts consider when determining if you deserve alimony. If your spouse earns significantly more than you do, a court may award spousal support to you.
  3. Length of marriage - The longer spouses are married, the less likely it is a court will award alimony. However, if there’s a significant income differential between spouses, alimony may still be appropriate.
  4. Age and health of the spouses - Courts are more likely to award alimony to older spouses, especially if they’re disabled.
  5. Contributions to the acquisition of marital property - This factor relates to the real estate or other property in a divorcing couple’s marital property.

How To Calculate Alimony In North Carolina?

After considering the listed factors above, a court will assign one spouse financial responsibility for the other.

The alimony calculator in North Carolina works by dividing the difference between the spouses’ incomes by two.

When calculating the amount of alimony, a judge will take your gross income and subtract your reasonable expenses to determine net income. Then, they’ll take your spouse’s gross income and subtract their reasonable expenses to determine net income. Next, the judge will add your two incomes together and subtract your spouse’s expenses from that number to arrive at a figure for spousal support.

Example: Brent earns $4,000 per month and Karen earns $1,500 per month. The difference between the spouses’ incomes is $2,500. Divided by two, the difference is $1,250. The court would assign Karen $1,250 per month in alimony.

Other Factors that May Influence Alimony in North Carolina

Depending on the factors of your case, a North Carolina court may adjust the number of support payments awarded.

Although the court may use certain factors as guidelines for spousal support, it may not always be possible to apply them to your situation. If one of the following applies to you, a judge may take this into account when determining alimony:

  • You’re disabled
  • You have young children
  • You or your spouse have children from a prior relationship
  • You’re repaying a substantial debt
  • One spouse contributed significantly to the other spouse’s education
  • You have limited earning potential
  • Your spouse has a substantial earning potential
  • Your spouse has addiction issues

Other factors the court may consider include your spouse’s ability to earn extra income, children’s medical and therapy expenses, and your spouse’s participation in a job-training program.

Paying Alimony in North Carolina

A court can order one spouse to pay alimony to the other spouse in North Carolina, but you can also decide to pay on your own. Whether you pay spousal maintenance voluntarily or through a court order, there are a variety of ways you can make the payments. Some ways to pay spousal support include:

  • Cash payments: Paying cash directly to your spouse is the most obvious way to pay alimony. Your spouse can use the money as they see fit, but they must report the payments to the IRS. Your spouse may also have to pay taxes on the money.
  • Property transfer: You can transfer real estate (like your marital residence) or other assets to your spouse as support.
  • Periodic payments: You can make periodic payments to your spouse instead of paying a lump sum. The periodic payments will depend on your net income and must be regular and include interest.
  • Your agreement: Your spouse can agree to accept services you provide in place of alimony. For example, if you are a stay-at-home parent, you may agree to accept child care services from your spouse in exchange for no alimony.

Changing Alimony Orders

If you want to change an alimony order, you must file a motion with the court that issued the order. You can either file the motion yourself or ask a law firm and their divorce attorneys to represent you in filing the motion. You can also talk with your spouse about changing the order.

If you want to change an alimony order, you must follow the correct procedures to file a motion with the court and pay legal fees. You may want to talk with an attorney if you need help filing a motion to change an alimony order.


Alimony can be a necessary part of a divorce. North Carolina judges consider several factors to determine how much alimony the party seeking maintenance should receive. Alimony or spousal support can then be awarded.

If one spouse requests alimony, they must prove they need financial support. If one spouse has a serious illness or disability, they may receive more alimony than they would if they were healthy.

Every divorce, while equally emotionally difficult and mentally draining, is different. Each situation needs to be assessed according to the family law, length of the marriage, and earning capacity.

If you are going through a divorce and need assistance, you can request a consultation at the Doyle Law Group and go over the details with our highly skilled lawyer.

To learn more about how we can help you, schedule a consultation via the form below, or call (919) 301-8843, and a member of our team will happily assist you.

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