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Alimony and Spousal Support

Spousal support, more commonly known as alimony, is payment by one spouse to the other. The amount paid and the length of time it is paid are determined by the court. Alimony in North Carolina is awarded in situations where there is a dependent spouse and supporting spouse, and where certain factors or circumstances exist that make an award of alimony appropriate. This is discussed in greater detail below.

How Alimony is Calculated

Unlike child support in North Carolina, there is no formula or worksheet that determines the amount of alimony. In some cases, it is paid as a lump sum, one-time payment, while in others it is paid monthly for a set number of years. It is rarely awarded permanently (until death or remarriage) as many people believe.

Dependent Spouse vs. Supporting Spouse

For an award of spousal support in North Carolina, a hearing is scheduled where the Court will determine two things:

  • Can one spouse be deemed a dependent spouse and the other a supporting spouse; and
  • How much should be paid as a result of that determination

To be considered a dependent spouse, you must demonstrate that you are dependent on your husband/wife financially and that he/she, as the supporting spouse, can afford to provide support.When determining how much the supporting spouse will pay to the dependent spouse, the Court will consider:

  • Each of the parties’ incomes and/or earning potential
  • How long the parties were married
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage
  • Contributions by one spouse to the other spouse’s education, training, etc.
  • The ability of the dependent spouse to acquire education or otherwise become self-supporting
  • Any marital misconduct

In the video, attorney Parker Herring discusses spousal support, alimony and Post-Separation Support in North Carolina. Herring is a founding member of Parker Herring Law Group, PLLC. She is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist and has been practicing family law for nearly thirty years.

Two Types of Spousal Support

There are two types of spousal support that a judge in North Carolina may award: Post-Separation Support (PSS) and/or Alimony.

Post-Separation Support

Post-Separation Support, or PSS, is a temporary form of spousal support the Court may order while the parties are separated and dividing assets, etc. If the Court finds you to be a dependent spouse, North Carolina law requires that the Court order the supporting spouse to pay PSS if your income is insufficient to cover your obligations. The Court will consider the standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage, both parties’ incomes, debts, etc. If the dependent spouse committed adultery, he/she is not barred from PSS, but the judge may consider this “marital misconduct” in determining whether or not to grant PSS and how much.


Alimony is a more permanent form of spousal support but is not necessarily life-long. It may be ordered to be paid monthly, or it could be ordered to be paid in one or several lump sum payments.

What Will Bar You From Receiving Alimony?

If you file for absolute divorce but do not state a claim for alimony in your Complaint, you will be barred from receiving alimony.

If you sign a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement containing a waiver of alimony clause, all alimony claims are barred.

If it is proven that you, as the dependent spouse, committed adultery, you are barred from receiving alimony. (Note: Conversely, if you are the supporting spouse and it can be proven that you committed adultery, the dependent spouse need only request that alimony be ordered. If both parties commit adultery, the award of alimony is at the Court’s discretion.

How Much Will I Get in Alimony?

The amount of NC alimony to be paid is determined by the Court and is based on the incomes of both parties, contributions to the marriage, marital misconduct, etc.

Taxing Spousal Support

If you are paying alimony, the alimony payments are tax deductible. If you are receiving alimony, the payments are reportable as income. This is the case in both federal and state law, provided the following criteria are met:

  • payments are in cash not kind
  • payments made out of divorce or separation
  • the parties have not designated the payments as non-alimony
  • the parties are living separately and not in the same household
  • the spouse paying alimony has no liability after the payee spouse dies.

More Information

For additional information on alimony in NC, legal separation and divorce, review the Separation and Divorce brochure from the North Carolina Advocates of Justice. For additional information on child support, see our Child Support page and Child Custody in North Carolina page, or the North Carolina Child Support Office.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in NC

Parker Herring Law Group, PLLC is a full service Raleigh family law firm. Our attorneys exclusively practice family law only, and handle cases regarding adoption, separation, child custody, child support, contested divorce, uncontested divorce, equitable distribution, alimony, alienation of affection, criminal conversation, domestic violence, spousal support, assisted reproduction, egg donation and surrogacy. If you need a North Carolina lawyer for help with your family law case, call us at (919) 821-1860. Our offices are located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. We offer family law representation to the residents of Raleigh and the counties of Wake, Durham, Chatham and Orange, including Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Zebulon, Wendell, Garner, Brier Creek, Midtown, North Hills, Morrisville, Wake Forest, Rolesville, Fuquay Varina, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, South Pointe, RDU and beyond. Call us today at (919) 821-1860.