One of the many questions about alimony that I field is the “how much” one. “How much will I have to pay?” or “How much will I get it?” Easy questions, not always easy to answer.
The reason the “how much” questions are not easy to answer is because there is no statutory guidance. There is no rule, for example, that says if Husband makes $X and Wife makes $Y then alimony shall be $Z. In short, there are no North Carolina alimony guidelines that judges must follow and lawyers can point to when advising their clients.
The only rule about the amount 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 the amount of alimony that 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..
Twenty year marriage and both are in their early 40’s.
No marital fault.
Wife says she needs $2000 per month to maintain a reasonable and accustomed standard of living.
Husband can pay $2000 but claims that Wife’s need are less than what she says because her car is paid for, their house is paid for that she is getting, and that her claimed expenses are over-stated by about $1250 per month.
Let’s leave out tax consequences for now but assume that this same case is for trail 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 $500 for there years is reasonable. Both judges are equally “right” because there is no objective right amount.
So what should you do? How can you figure out a reasonable amount 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 nineteen years of experience in all areas of family law litigation and settlement. He can be reached at 919.863.4183.