Remarriage and Alimony in North Carolina

Learn whether cohabitation can impact alimony in North Carolina.

During a North Carolina divorce, courts sometimes order the higher-earning spouse (“paying spouse”) to make payments to the financially dependent spouse, called alimony. If the dependent spouse remarries or begins living with another person, however, the paying spouse should know whether he or she must continue paying alimony.

This article explains how the remarriage or cohabitation of a dependent spouse affects alimony in North Carolina. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony in North Carolina after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.

Overview of Alimony in North Carolina

In a North Carolina divorce, the court may order one spouse to pay the other alimony for a period of time while the financially dependent spouse works to become self-supporting. In rare cases, the court may decide that the dependent spouse won’t ever be able to become financially independent and will order the paying spouse to pay alimony until one spouse dies, or until the dependent spouse remarries.

The court will consider a number of factors when determining alimony, including the following:

  • each spouse’s income and earning ability
  • each spouse’s conduct during the marriage
  • the length of the marriage
  • each spouse’s physical and mental health
  • the couple’s standard of living during the marriage
  • each spouse’s contributions to the other’s career or earning potential
  • each spouse’s ability to get education or training to become self-supporting, and
  • any other factor the court deems relevant.

If you would like to know more about alimony in North Carolina, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in North Carolina.

Impact of Remarriage on Alimony

In North Carolina, alimony ends if the dependent spouse remarries. Alimony terminates automatically upon the date of the dependent spouse’s remarriage; the paying spouse doesn’t have to return to court for an order ending payments: He or she can stop paying alimony immediately upon the dependent spouse’s wedding date.

If a court ordered that alimony be paid in the form of a property transfer, and the paying spouse hasn’t transferred the property before the dependent spouse’s remarriage, he or she still must transfer the property to the dependent spouse. Also, if the court ordered the paying spouse to pay alimony in the form of a lump sum, he or she must still make that lump sum payment, even if the dependent spouse has remarried.

If the court ordered the paying spouse to make periodic payments, the paying spouse doesn’t have to make any payments after the date of the dependent spouse’s remarriage. The paying spouse still must pay any past-due alimony owed at the time the dependent spouse remarried.

Termination or Modification of Alimony

North Carolina courts always have the ability to modify alimony. Either spouse can ask the court to modify or terminate alimony by filing a motion to modify alimony in the county district court clerk’s office.

After you file a motion to modify alimony, the court will schedule a hearing where both spouses must appear. The spouse asking for a change or termination of alimony will need to prove that one or both spouses’ financial circumstances have changed significantly, to the point that it warrants a change in alimony. You should gather any evidence of the change in your income or your ex-spouse’s income, as well as any changes in your basic needs and expenses.

You can avoid going to court for a modification of alimony hearing if you and your ex-spouse can agree to modify alimony yourselves. If you and your ex-spouse come to an agreement, put it in writing, sign it, and submit it to the court for approval.

Impact of Cohabitation on Alimony

In North Carolina, alimony terminates when the dependent spouse cohabits with another person. Cohabitation in North Carolina is defined as two adults living together continually, in a relationship similar to married people. For example, when two individuals share expenses, don’t have separate residences, and have a romantic relationship, the court may decide they are cohabiting. The two adults don’t have to be having sexual relations to be cohabiting.

On the other hand, if a dependent spouse is having sexual relations with another person, and they occasionally spend nights together or take trips together, but have their own residences, that will not qualify as cohabitation. Cohabitation requires that the dependent spouse be living in a situation similar to a married couple.

If you are paying alimony to your ex-spouse, and you believe he or she is cohabiting with another person, you’ll need to file a motion to terminate alimony in your local district court clerk’s office. You should gather evidence of their cohabitation to present to the judge at a hearing. You’ll want to gather evidence such as:

  • photos, videos, or other evidence that they are living together
  • evidence that they both receive mail at the same address
  • evidence that they take vacations together, and
  • any other proof that they have a marriage-type relationship.

Witnesses who can testify to your ex-spouse’s relationship can also help you prove cohabitation.

If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact a North Carolina family law attorney for help.

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