The North Carolina alimony statute is N.C.G.S. 50-16.3A. Alimony is support paid from one spouse (the supporting spouse) to another spouse (the dependent spouse). Alimony is not the same thing as postseparation support.
In order for the court to award alimony, the judge must find that:
1) One spouse is dependent,
2) One spouse is supporting, and
3) An award of alimony is equitable after considering all relevant factors
N.C.G.S. 50-16.3A says that the amount, duration and manner of payment of alimony are in the court’s discretion. The judge must consider “all relevant factors.” The statute also lists specific 16 factors that the judge must consider in determing the amount of alimony and how long the supporting spouse must pay.
Although North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state and marital infidelity is typically not relevant to divorce proceedings, whether one spouse had an affair is extremely important in an action for alimony. N.C.G.S. 50-16.3A says that if the dependent spouse had an affair, that spouse is barred from receiving alimony. Or, if the supporting spouse had an affair, the court must award alimony to the dependent spouse. If both spouses cheated, the award of alimony is back in the court’s discretion.
Beside infidelity, the two most important factors are typically the length of the marriage and the income of the parties. There is no absolute rule on the relationship between the length of the marriage and the duration of alimony, but typically, in a marriage of 10 years or less, alimony will not be awarded for longer than 1/2 of the length of the marriage. And if the income of both spouses is roughly the same, alimony will typically not be awarded to either. Of course, the results of each case depend on the specific facts involved.
It is important to note that a claim for alimony must be brought either with, or before, the divorce. This can be a huge problem for the dependent spouse who waits until the divorce is finalized before asking for alimony, because once the divorce is final, a suit for alimony is barred.