Alimony allows spouses who have not been the breadwinners of their families to maintain a reasonable standard of living after the marriage ends.

According to North Carolina statutes, a judge may award alimony if he or she thinks it is fair based on a number of factors.

The finances

The income and earning capacity of the dependent spouse and the supporting spouse may be vastly different, particularly if the dependent spouse has spent years as a homemaker and does not have recent work experience.

Income does not just mean job earnings for the purposes of alimony considerations. It also includes medical benefits, retirement accounts, insurance, Social Security, veterans benefits, dividends and other financial resources.

How the property is divided and what separate property and other resources each spouse has will also be relevant, as well as the tax consequences of each of these factors.

The needs

Child custody, liabilities and debts, health issues and other factors may increase the needs of a spouse. Or, a spouse’s primary need may be time to gain education and training for a career.

The marriage

Judges are much more likely to award alimony if the marriage has been a long one, and if the spouses had a high standard of living during their time together.

Marital misconduct may have an effect on whether or not a spouse receives alimony. If the spouse who requests it had an affair, the judge will deny the request. If the supporting spouse had an affair, the judge may award it.

The contributions

Courts look at homemaking and raising children as valuable contributions to a marriage. In fact, these very actions may have increased the earning power of the supporting spouse. If one spouse gave up a career so that the other could become more successful, this will be an important consideration.

According to MarketWatch, although gender is not a deciding factor for the courts, there may be a bias in society that prevents many men from requesting alimony, even though they have increasingly begun playing the supporting role. Although roughly 40% of American families have a female breadwinner, only about 3% of alimony recipients are male.