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March Madness: NCAA Tournament, St. Patrick's Day, Spring Break and ...Alimony?

By Matt Jackson

Typically when spouses decide to go their separate ways, there can be great difficulty in stretching income that would pay for expenses of one household to now pay for two. In North Carolina, the claim of alimony or spousal support is recognized and often brought by one party who is dependent upon the other spouse for economic support. A Court may look at the reasonable needs of the dependent spouse (the spouse who claims that they are in need of maintenance and support) to determine if they are truly in need of support from the other spouse. If the Court finds that a dependent spouse is in need and the supporting spouse has the ability to pay, after taking into consideration the supporting spouses reasonable needs, the Court may award alimony.

There is a caveat to the above, and that is the Court will also consider if the awarding of alimony or spousal support is equitable under the factors enumerated by North Carolina law. The month of March is unique in that it presents an opportunity to highlight several considerations that the Court may evaluate in the determination of whether an award of alimony is equitable under the circumstances. As you probably well know, March Madness brings with it a great opportunity to watch lots of college basketball, and the opportunity to waste a lot of money betting on games. St. Patrick's Day is often associated with drinking in excess. These two events in the month of March highlight two typical fact patterns used in determining whether or not an award of alimony would be equitable. If a Court finds that one spouse, whether supporting or dependent, is engaged in excessive alcohol use or gambling, the Court may determine that it is more or less equitable to award alimony. The Court, however, is not bound to decide either way if the facts bear out excessive gambling or drinking.

However, too much fun on Spring Break could have more of an impact on the Court's analysis. Many spouses in unhappy marriages may use vacation as an opportunity to take a break and perhaps stray from their marital vows. Illicit sexual behavior committed by either spouse can have a determinative impact on the Court's analysis of an alimony claim. North Carolina law provides that if a supporting spouse commits illicit sexual behavior and the dependent spouse has not, the supporting spouse must pay some amount of alimony. Conversely, if a dependent spouse commits illicit sexual behavior and the supporting spouse does not, the Court must deny an alimony award. If both spouses commit illicit sexual behavior then the Court is not obligated by law to decide one way or the other.

The Madness of March brings the opportunity of warmer weather, spring break, basketball frenzies, and The Luck of the Irish. With all of the excitement ushered in with the promise of Spring, please keep in mind the dangers that the month of March may also present to spouses with respect to alimony.

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