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Modification of Alimony — Cary Family Law Attorney


Courts proceed cautiously in considering whether to modify an amount of alimony due to a change in financial circumstances of the parties. If the change in circumstances was expected at the time of the original award of alimony, that change would not be enough to modify the alimony. Slight fluctuations of income from year to year are a common occurrence and will probably not be enough.

The North Carolina Supreme Court has held that the primary principle in cases determining alimony is fairness to all parties. Unfortunately, in modifying alimony payments, this is not always the case. A court may not modify alimony even if an ex-spouse’s salary or income has been significantly reduced. If the spouse can make the alimony payments with the reduction in income, the court may refuse to modify the amount of alimony. Income variations are a common occurrence and only the income at the time of the original alimony payments orders is considered relevant.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.3A(b) sets forth 16 factors to consider in the establishment of alimony. When a party makes a motion to modify alimony payments, the court does not need to consider all 16 factors when making its determination of whether to modify alimony payments.

Not just any change of circumstances will be sufficient to warrant a modification of alimony. The person asking for a modification has the burden of showing a substantial change in conditions that makes the amount of alimony either inadequate or unduly burdensome. The court will look at the present overall circumstances of both parties at the time of modification compared to the circumstances at the time of the original award of alimony to decide if there are substantial changes. The court looks to the original circumstances and factors used in determining alimony, including any estates, earnings, earning capacity, accustomed standard of living of the parties, and any other factors used to set the original alimony award.

Even if a spouse receiving alimony is frivolously spending or wasting the alimony, this may not be sufficient for a modification. The court will rarely look at marital conduct after the award of alimony. Instead the court will only look at the financial needs of the dependent spouse and the ability of the supporting spouse to pay.