Charlotte Spousal Support Lawyer
Many misconceptions are associated with the concept of alimony (sometimes called "spousal support"). Notwithstanding what you may have heard from your friends, or even what you may have seen on TV over the years, alimony is not a "reward" for simply having been married.
Rather, when applicable, alimony is an "award" of money from the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse to assist with what have been determined to be the dependent spouse's reasonable needs and expenses. Further, contrary to popular belief, issues such as adultery, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and mental abuse are not absolutely determinative that there will even be an award of alimony.
The Effect of Behavior on Alimony Awards
A three step analysis must be performed to make sure certain criteria are met before we even begin to analyze the effect of bad behavior upon any award of alimony.
First, before we do anything else in regard to analyzing an award of alimony, we must decipher whether there was a "supporting spouse" during the marriage and whether there was a "dependent spouse" during the marriage. As a general rule, we can make this determination by looking to see whether one of the parties earned substantially more income than the other party on an annual basis. However, as you will see below, a wide disparity in income does not always equate to an award of alimony for the dependent spouse. For the purposes of this exercise, it suffices to say that we are able to move on to the second part of the analysis if there is clearly a supporting spouse/dependent spouse relationship. On the other hand, if both parties have similar incomes, or if there is not a wide disparity in incomes, the analysis ends here and there will be no award of alimony.
Second, and assuming we have established a supporting spouse/dependent spouse relationship during the marriage, we must ask the following questions:
- Does the supporting spouse have the ability to pay anything to the dependent spouse after the supporting spouse satisfies his or her monthly reasonable needs and expenses?
- Does the dependent spouse have a need for additional financial assistance so as to be able to satisfy his or her monthly reasonable needs and expenses?
In other words, even if one spouse made substantially more than the other spouse during the marriage, no award of alimony will be justified unless the supporting spouse has some disposable income after all of his or her reasonable needs and expenses are paid each month.
An example of this would be a scenario whereby the dependent spouse does not have any income but the supporting spouse only makes $40,000.00 per year. In that event, an award of alimony would be unlikely as there would not be any funds remaining after tax deductions, monthly bills, and possibly a child support obligation. Likewise, no award of alimony will be justified if the dependent spouse is able to take care of his or her monthly reasonable needs and expenses without the support of the other party. An example of this would be a scenario where the supporting spouse makes $200,000.00 per year but the dependent spouse makes $75,000.00 per year. In that event, an award of alimony would be unlikely as the dependent spouse would likely be able to satisfy his or her monthly reasonable needs and expenses without the assistance of the other party.
Third, and assuming we have found that there is a supporting spouse/dependent spouse relationship, that the supporting spouse has the ability to pay, and that the dependent spouse has a need, we can move on to the obvious question: How much alimony should be awarded per month and for how many months or years will this award of alimony continue?
In order for this be determined, your spousal support attorney in Charlotte (or the Court if the case cannot be resolved amicably), look at factors such as the following:
- The monthly financial needs of the parties.
- The accustomed standard of living of the parties.
- The current employment income of each party and other recurring earnings of each party from any source (Annual gifts from parents, disability payments, etc.).
- The earning abilities of both parties.
- The educational and vocational history of the parties.
- The separate and marital debt service obligations of each party.
- The reasonable and necessary living expenses of both parties.
- Each party’s respective legal obligations to pay support to any other person (previous child support or alimony obligations).
- Marital misconduct of either party (adultery, abuse, etc.).
Of course, the listing of factors set forth above is not exhaustive. Rather, it is merely a partial listing of the tangible factors which are to be considered if we are able to get through the first two steps of the analysis such that an award of alimony is justified.
What is important to note here is that all variations of marital misconduct (whether it be adultery, abuse, or otherwise), do not even come into play unless we are able to determine that a supporting spouse/dependent spouse relationship existed, that the supporting spouse has the ability to pay, and that the dependent spouse has a need for monthly financial assistance.
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