5 Factors Considered When Calculating Spousal Support

Individuals in North Carolina who are going through the divorce process often have questions about how the amount of spousal support will be calculated. This article lists five factors that courts in North Carolina consider influential in determining the amount of spousal support that must be paid between former spouses. Keep in mind that these are by no means the only factors considered, and every spousal support determination will be made on a case-by-case basis by the courts.

The Ability Of Each Spouse To Become Self-Supporting

Spousal support is intended to act as a measure for one spouse to help support another spouse immediately after a marriage ends. If both spouses earned a salary during the course of the marriage, courts are likely to award less spousal support than if one spouse sacrificed the pursuit of a career to act as a homemaker.

Educational Contributions To The Other Spouse’s Education

Educational degrees present a unique challenge when courts are tasked with assigning the division of the value of a couple’s property. While educational degrees are incapable of being liquidated and the assets divided in half, courts will examine whether one spouse worked or dedicated a significant amount of financial backing so that the other spouse could obtain a degree.

Each Spouse’s Salary And Earning Capacity

Because spousal support is designed to help spouses become financially independent after a marriage has ended, courts often find it particularly helpful to determine the amount of each spouse’s salary and earning capacity during the course of the marriage. Courts will analyze both the ability of the higher-earning spouse to provide support in addition to each spouse’s ability to become self-sufficient.

The Existence Of Marital Misconduct

Marital misconduct is a phrase that incorporates several types of actions that might be committed by a spouse during the course of a marriage. Some examples of marital misconduct include criminal acts that led to marital separation, neglect, abandonment, domestic abuse, financial mismanagement, and addiction. Courts will likely weigh this type of behavior when assigning spousal support. Misconduct that lessened the amount of the couple’s financials will likely prove particularly influential in determining the amount of spousal support that is awarded. Additionally, in North Carolina, adultery is relevant to the calculation and award of spousal support. If a “dependent spouse” (the spouse who would have been entitled to receive support from the other) is proven to have committed adultery during the marriage, it can be a total bar to receiving spousal support. If the “supporting spouse” (the spouse who is paying the spousal support) is found to have committed adultery during the marriage, the amount that the spouse pays to the other could be higher.

The Standard Living During The Course of Marriage

The “standard of living” is a concept that divorce courts use to refer to the average amount of finances that were available monthly to a couple during the course of a marriage, as well as the type of lifestyle the couple enjoyed when they were living together. Judges have particularly wide discretion in determining how to define the standard of living during the course of a couple’s marriage. This amount need not be a specific dollar amount either, which means that the standard of living is frequently treated as an approximate amount of finances available, and the way those finances were spent. Judges will analyze whether the couple lived beyond their means, how and in what ways they saved money, what they valued in terms of “luxury items” (did they spend a lot of money on going out, entertainment, vacations, etc), and incorporate those conclusions when determining what is reasonable for each spouse’s lifestyle now that they are separated.

If you are an individual in North Carolina involved in the separation or divorce process, one of the best ways to ensure that spousal support and all other terms of your dissolution are handled fairly and equitably is to enlist the guidance of a skilled and compassionate family law attorney like those at Haas & Associates, P.A. Please do not hesitate to give us a call today to discuss your case and how we can help.