Can my wife sue for lifetime alimony?

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Can my wife sue for lifetime alimony?

I am getting divorced, my wife and I have been married for 5 years. When I deployed to Iraq she told me she wanted a divorce because she was going to go be a groupie for some band called LMFAO. while I was in Iraq there was a court date which I obviously was not able to attend, so now I have been listed as having emotionally abandoned her. While we were going through the custody battles I was not allowed to leave work one day for court and she was awarded full custody. I pay her $700 in child support which she uses as her only reportable income because she refuses to work.

Asked on November 24, 2010 under Family Law, North Carolina

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes she can.  In NC, alimony (spousal support) can be for awarded a certain period of time or can be awarded for an indefinite period of time (i.e. lifetime), although it typically terminates upon re-marriage.  The 16 factors that determine the duration (and amount) of an award are:

  1. The marital misconduct of either of the spouses;
  2. The earning capacities of the spouses;
  3. The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses;
  4. The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of both spouses (i.e. dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security, etc);
  5. The duration of the marriage;
  6. The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
  7. The extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child;
  8. The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage;
  9. The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs;
  10. The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support;
  11. The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
  12. The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
  13. The relative needs of the spouses;
  14. The federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;
  15. Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper; and
  16. The fact that income received by either party was previously considered by the court in determining the value of a marital or divisible asset in an equitable distribution of the parties’ marital property.

Parties to a divorce must remember that the determination of alimony is a matter left to the wide discretion of the judge based on his/her notion of “fairness.”  Additionally, alimony that is not lump-sum (i.e. a definite amount for a definite period), can be modified upon a showing of a “substantial change in circumstances.” This means a change in circumstances from those that existed at the time the original order was issued.  For example, a change in income or assets of either party, a change in earning capacity, or an unanticipated change in expenses.

At this point, you should consult directly with a divorce attorney in your area.


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