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What Is A Dependent Spouse In North Carolina?

Alimony is not as common as it once was. Alimony might be awarded during the separation period (temporary alimony), but there is no guarantee of that or any alimony following a divorce. In North Carolina, only a dependent spouse is eligible to receive alimony following a divorce. What does that mean? Let’s take a look at how alimony works. 

Alimony’s Origins

According to the National Paralegal College, alimony “arose in the English ecclesiastical courts at a time when divorce was not permitted and a married couple could obtain only a legal separation. Although the parties may have been living apart, the husband still had a continuing legal duty to support his wife because they were still legally married.”

The practice continued in America as a way to punish the “guilty” party in a divorce. At that time, divorces were solely fault-based. In later years, alimony was given to women because the traditional family structure meant women had no income or way of earning money. After 1970, alimony stopped being awarded based on gender, meaning men could collect alimony as well. 

What is a dependent spouse?

Today, alimony is awarded for shorter periods of time, if at all. And again, in North Carolina, you must be a “dependent spouse” to receive it. According to the statute, “A dependent spouse is a husband or wife who is actually substantially dependent on the other spouse for maintenance or one who is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse. Whereas, the supporting spouse provides his or her spouse a majority of their income.”

However, courts are given a lot of room when determining whether someone is dependent. A judge will consider your marital lifestyle and factors such as young children. The general idea is to prevent one partner from leaving the marriage with financial losses. But at the same time, the idea that someone should gain financially just because they were married is becoming antiquated. And far more often, women are expected to support themselves following divorce. 

If you are a dependent spouse, speak to one of our Raleigh family lawyers about your eligibility for alimony or visit our monthly workshop to ask more questions about this issue.


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