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For some couples, having one spouse stay at home can be a great option for the family. Whether you have young children or have recently purchased a property that requires substantial sweat equity, a stay-at-home spouse can contribute a lot of unpaid work to a marriage that adds substantially to everyone’s lives and reduces the costs the household incurs.

Unfortunately, years of rewarding but unpaid labor can sometimes leave one spouse feeling at a financial disadvantage in the event of a divorce. After all, those years out of the workforce can mean substantially decreased future earning potential and other complications, such as a lapse in skill acquisition during a time of change for the industry in which they once worked.

If you worry about the financial repercussions of a divorce after being out of the workforce, seeking alimony as part of your divorce proceedings may be a way to help you.

How does North Carolina handle alimony?

Some states call alimony spousal support or spousal maintenance. In North Carolina, the term used in the actual statute is postseparation support. The idea of postseparation support is to mitigate the negative financial consequences of a separation on the spouse with lower earning potential, often because they stayed out of the workforce to contribute to the household.

You don’t have to prove fault to get postseparation support. However, spousal misconduct could influence the amount or duration of support in some circumstances. Most of the time, the courts will primarily look at the earning potential of each spouse and their contributions to the household before deciding how to approach postseparation support.

How long does postseparation support last?

If you and your spouse are both at an age where you can remain in the workforce, chances are good that your spousal support will be a temporary stopgap to help you acquire skills or education that will make you competitive and allow you to command a living wage.

If your divorce is the result of a medical issue or if you have custody of children, particularly if those children have special needs, you may have a case for long-term or even permanent alimony depending on the circumstances.

You won’t get what you don’t ask for, as postseparation support is not automatic. You must make a request for alimony as part of your divorce proceedings if you hope to collect it during or after the divorce.