How Long Am I Entitled to Receive – Or Must I Pay – Alimony?

Decades ago when men were traditionally the breadwinners of the American family and women were typically stay-at-home moms, permanent alimony was not an unusual financial result in divorces. The days of permanent or indefinite alimony awards are not over, but they are less common than they were in the past. In general, alimony awards today are more likely to be for a specified duration with an emphasis on a period of time that allows a dependent spouse and adequate opportunity to find a job, pursue education, or update credentials in order to become economically self-sufficient. Moreover, alimony awards are not limited to women – either spouse may qualify as a dependent spouse.

North Carolina law does not provide a formula by which a trial judge may use to determine how long alimony should be paid. The duration of the alimony award, as well as the amount and manner of payment, are solely within the discretion of the trial judge.

Under current North Carolina law, if alimony is paid pursuant to an order of alimony entered by a North Carolina Court, the alimony must cease upon the first to occur of the following: (1) the date, time period, or circumstances specified by the court in its order, (2) the death of either the supporting spouse or the dependent spouse; (3) the dependent spouse’s remarriage; (4) or the dependent spouse’s cohabitation as defined in North Carolina General Statute 50-16.9 (b).

If alimony is paid pursuant to a valid written agreement entered into between the parties instead of a court order, the terms of the contract should state the date and/or circumstances under which alimony will terminate.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.

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