At one point over the last twenty years of doing this kind of work, I heard someone refer to alimony as “ali-money.”   I can understand why.  The truest statement about alimony is that most everyone wants it and absolutely no one wants to pay it.

One of the many questions about alimony that I field is the “how long” one.   “how long will I have to pay?”  or “How long will I get it?”   Easy questions, not always easy to answer.

The reason the “how long” questions are not easy to answer is because there is no statutory guidance.   There is no rule, for example, that says for every year of marriage there is six months of alimony.

The only rule about the duration of alimony under North Carolina family law statutes is that the duration is in the discretion of the judge.  That means that two judges applying the same North Carolina alimony law to very similar cases may, in their separate application of their “discretion” come up with two very different decisions about how long alimony should be paid.

Assume for a moment, the following facts as an illustration:

Husband makes $100,000 per year.
Wife makes $20,000 per year and has no real prospects of increasing her income..
No children.
Twenty year marriage and both are in their early 40’s.
No marital fault.
Wife needs $2000 per month to maintain a reasonable and accustomed standard of living.
Husband can pay $2000.

Let’s leave out tax consequences for now but assume that this same case is for trial in Wake County and in Orange County.

A judge in Wake County family court might look at this and think ten years at $2000 per months is reasonable.  A judge in orange County might look at this and think that $2000 for there years is reasonable.   Both judges are equally “right” because there is no objective right duration.

So what should you do?  How can you figure out a reasonable duration to pay or expect?  The answer is in consulting with an attorney who has practiced in the county your case is in, in front of the judge who is possibly going to hear your case.



Scott Allen is a divorce attorney in Raleigh, NC with over twenty-three years of experience in all areas of family law litigation and settlement.  He can be reached at 919.863.4183.

Representation Matters

"Scott was wonderful throughout the long process and it was clear to me that Scott was knowledgeable of case-law and the Wake County Court system, as well as being especially strong in court. His representation resulted in additional parenting time following the temporary custody trial and since the case proceeded to a full trial, I was ultimately awarded the custody arrangement I was seeking. My daughters reside in Wake County and now if my ex-wife chooses to relocate, I’ll have full legal custody of the girls. Throughout the process, Scott was responsive, provided extremely helpful advice, and genuinely cared about the outcome of my case. I would strongly recommended Scott’s representation for custody matters."

Jon H

Cared About My Situation

I was out of options and Scott was there to help. I have spoken to or met many attorney's in Wake County and Scott was the only one that REALLY actually cared about my situation. It sounds cliche' but it's not. I could clearly tell that Scott had given a lot of thought to my case. Scott has extensive knowledge of the law. That knowledge coupled with his cerebral approach and courtroom presence were a savior. - Ken

Secured My Life

"Scott Allen and his team were sensational during my divorce proceedings. They kept me well-informed of the procedures, requirements, and options. They took the time to explain to me at every step of the decisions and options as we moved forward in my life. Their support, knowledge and presence were comforting in my time of need and help me get through the ordeal. While no divorce is pleasant outcome they help me secure my life and begin a new chapter with a fresh start. Their extensive knowledge of the law and arbitration and negotiation skills were invaluable in getting a good settlement and resolution. I am very pleased that I selected Scott and his team to represent me. I would emphatically recommend Scott and to anyone who is facing a divorce or possibility of a divorce."

Steven D

Fought for My Rights

I wanted to go to court and he went with it. During the initial hearing and all the subsequent hearings he fought for my rights and presented my case diligently and proved the claims by the other party to be false. Most of the lawyers, will tell you settle as it saves them and the court time, but it might not be always in your best interest. Scott is not those lawyers, he really cares about his clients and is not afraid to litigate or fight for his client’s right in the court. - Susan

I Began to Sleep Better at Night

Scott Allen took my divorce case after my first lawyer failed to stand for my rights.Scott took the case and I began to sleep better at night. My marriage ended from abuse so I was very weary. - Felicia