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Spousal Support

Spousal support is money that is paid from one current or former spouse to the other current or former spouse. In order for a current or former spouse to receive spousal support, the Court must find that person to be a dependent spouse. In order for a current or former spouse to be required to pay spousal support, the Court must find that person to be a supporting spouse.

Under North Carolina Divorce Law, there are two distinct types of spousal support. The first is post separation support and the second is alimony. Post separation support (PSS) is akin to “temporary alimony” in that it can generally be considered by the Court fairly quickly after the party seeking post separation files a verified complaint or verified motion in the cause seeking PSS. By comparison, alimony is generally not considered by the Court until much later in the litigation process, sometimes a year or more after the initial filing.

Whether considering PSS or alimony, the trial court is charged with considering the reasonable needs and expenses of each party. Generally, each party provides this information to the Court by filing an Affidavit of Financial Standing. An Affidavit of Financial Standing is a sworn statement (affidavit) which is signed before a Notary Public. This affidavit sets forth each party’s contended financial needs and expenses on a monthly basis. In this way, an Affidavit of Financial Standing is a monthly cash flow statement for each party to the divorce case. An Affidavit of Financial Standing is similar to a profit and loss report of a business. It sets forth the monthly income and out-go for each party. If you are in litigation for a spousal support matter, it is highly likely that you will be required to complete, verify, file and serve on the opposing side an Affidavit of Financial Standing.

First, the affidavit addresses the income of each party. If the party is a W-2 employee, this is typically a very straightforward part of the affidavit. If, on the other hand, the party is self-employed, then that part of the analysis can be more involved. In Mecklenburg County cases, those who are self-employed or have rental income must complete the last page of the affidavit for either the “Rental Income Worksheet” or the “Business Income Worksheet.” The affidavit sets forth the monthly gross income for the individual. It then itemizes the individual’s deductions from gross income and shows the monthly net income for the party completing the affidavit.

The affidavit next addresses the needs and expenses of the party by setting forth the “shared family expenses” of the individual. This includes those needs and expenses which are required to run a household and often times benefit multiple individuals. Shared family expenses include the house payment or rent for the party. Also, this category includes other household expenses such as Home Owners’ Association dues, utilities, home food and supplies and car expenses (including monthly car payments and gasoline).

The affidavit further analyzes the needs and expenses of the party by setting forth the “individual monthly expenses” for the adult and for any children for whom that person is legally responsible. These expenses are, as the name suggests, those which effectively benefit only one person. This category of expenses includes the individual’s health insurance and uninsured expenses, clothing, child care, entertainment and activities, meals out, car and life insurance and similar individual expenses.

The last category of expenses that is set forth on the affidavit is monthly debt payments by the individual.

After the Court has before it the contended monthly income and reasonable needs and expenses of each party, both affidavits are then subject to challenge by the other side. Typically, the opposing party will try to show that the monthly income is greater than contended to be and that the monthly reasonable needs and expenses are lower than they are contended to be. The Court will generally make specific findings of fact with respect to each party’s monthly income and monthly reasonable needs and expenses after hearing the evidence and arguments.

Finally, the Court will consider any marital misconduct of each party. Marital misconduct is handled differently in PSS cases from alimony cases. The implications of marital misconduct will be addressed specifically on those pages.

If you want to understand your rights with respect to spousal support, do not hesitate to contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today to consult with an experienced attorney, possibly a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, for more information.