Factors in Determining Post-Separation Support


Maginnis Howard no longer practices family law. This blog is for informational purposes only.

Post-separation support is a form of financial support generally provided early in a case to ensure a dependent spouse will have their needs met prior to an alimony award. Eligibility for post-separation financial support following a separation may be crucial for a person’s financial security following a separation.

To determine whether a person is eligible for post-separation support, it must be shown that (1) he/she is a “dependent spouse;” (2) the other spouse is a “supporting spouse;” (3) the dependent spouse lacks financial resources to meet their reasonable needs; and (4) the supporting spouse is able to pay.

North Carolina family law statutes list factors to be considered in determining post-separation financial support, including the financial needs of the parties, the parties’ accustomed standard of living, the present income and other recurring earnings of each party from any source, their income-earning abilities, the separate and marital debt service obligations, expenses reasonably necessary to support each of the parties, and each party’s respective legal obligations to support other persons.

The amount of post-separation support awarded to a spouse is in the discretion of the judge. This makes it difficult to estimate or anticipate how much financial support a person will be entitled. Courts may consider a person’s ability to work and may push them towards getting a job. If a dependent spouse owes child support, that may be considered in determining an amount owed. A spouses “accustomed standard of living” will also be a factor. Because of the inherent inability to anticipate how a judge may rule in a particular case, many people choose the control and stability that a separation agreement allows.

As with alimony, marital misconduct can be a significant factor in determining whether post-separation support will be awarded, and if so, how much will be awarded. Generally, an award of post-separation support against a wrongdoing supporting spouse may be severe while an amount awarded to a wrongdoing dependent spouse may be marginal.

Preparing for a post-separation support or alimony case must be very detailed. Bank statements, bills, check registers, tax returns, pay stubs, and other financial information will need to be thoroughly dissected and analyzed to determine actual income and actual living expenses required to maintain an appropriate standard of living.

In North Carolina, post-separation support expires at the earlier of any date specified in the post-separation support order or an order awarding or denying alimony. Post-separation support also ends upon the death of either spouse or upon remarriage or cohabitation of the dependent spouse. Contrary to popular belief, a post-separation support order does not terminate automatically after a divorce.