Spousal support is a contentious and touchy issue in even the most amicable of divorces. No spouse LIKES the idea of having to be dependent for financial support. Generally the higher earning spouse recognizes the need to support the lower earning spouse for a period of time but wants the dependency to end as soon as possible. The issue of whether there will be any payment of spousal support from the higher earning spouse to the lower earning spouse, and if there is spousal support, how long will it continue, must be addressed. Most spouses want a prediction of what a judge assigned to their case would rule. However, in North Carolina, usually spousal support is addressed during the separation period, before an action for divorce has been filed, and so a judge has not yet been assigned. And judge’s rulings are never 100% predictable.

Instead of trying to predict what a judge would do, it’s better to ask the following questions, especially when one spouse makes significantly less than the other:

  1. Do you both agree that one of you is dependent on the other for financial assistance in order to meet personal living expenses?

  2. Do you agree that a goal would be to try to reduce or even eventually eliminate financial dependency one of you has on the other, by creating a plan to increase earnings, from property division or from other income-producing assets, of the lower income spouse?

  3. What plan can the two of you agree upon that will reduce or end the need for financial dependency on the other?

Other questions to be asked are:

  1. Can you agree that you both have the need for adequate housing, especially if we have minor children that need adequate housing?

  2. Can you agree that because you will now be supporting two separate households, you may have to budget and even eliminate certain expenditures (and mutually reduce the lifestyle to which we have both been accustomed), so that the reasonable needs of both spouse, and the children, can be met?

  3. Can you agree to increase your incomes so that you can support two residences?

When these questions have been asked and discussed, it creates an environment of mutual thinking and encourages problem solving. Once the dialog is started, budgets of both spouses can be reviewed and discussed. By using the skills of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, educated predictions of changes in incomes, housing and other expenses can be included in future budgets. Then those budgets can be examined to create a more facts based economic picture on which to base needs versus ability to pay spousal support.