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Family Law

Spousal Support: Post Separation Support & Alimony

When spouses separate, it may create undue financial hardship for one spouse. In these circumstances, a spouse may be entitled to receive spousal support. Spousal support is financial assistance that is paid to one spouse by the other when the parties separate.  Spousal support is distinct and separate from child support.  In North Carolina, there are two forms of spousal support: one is post-separation support and the other is alimony.  

What is the Difference Between Post Separation Support and Alimony?

Post-separation support (“PSS”) is a form of temporary support that is typically paid soon after the parties’ separation. Alimony is spousal support that is generally paid for a longer-term, and sometimes on an indefinite or permanent basis. Both PSS and alimony are awarded to a spouse based primarily on financial need. 

Who is Eligible to Seek Post Separation Support and/or Alimony?

Either party has a right to initiate a legal proceeding seeking PSS and/or alimony, regardless of gender. Claims for PSS and alimony are usually asserted in conjunction with other unresolved issues surrounding separation and divorce, such as equitable distribution, child custody, and child support.

In order for a Court to award PSS or alimony, a judge must first find that the spouse seeking support is a “dependent” spouse who is:

  1. actually substantially dependent upon the supporting spouse for maintenance and support, or 
  2. is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the supporting spouse.   

This essentially means that one spouse is unable to maintain his or her accustomed standard of living, as established during the marriage, without support from the other.  

Once a spouse’s dependency has been established, the judge must then determine whether the supporting spouse has the financial ability to pay such support. 

Is Spousal Support at Issue in Your Case? Hopper Cummings Can Help.

It is important to note that both PSS and alimony can be resolved between the parties prior to or even after a legal action asserting such claims has been filed with the court. If the parties are able to reach an agreement, either through informal negotiations or mediation, they may elect to memorialize the terms of their agreement in a private written contract. If a legal action is pending, they also have the option of submitting their agreement to the court and requesting that the court adopt it as a court order. If parties cannot agree on PSS and/or alimony, they may proceed to court and let a judge make a decision for them.

Paying or receiving alimony can affect your finances in the present and long into the future. As such, spousal support matters must be given appropriate attention in all divorce cases.  If spousal support is at issue in your case, it is critical that you have an experienced attorney representing you to ensure that relevant and credible financial evidence is considered during settlement negotiations, or presented to the court at trial. A knowledgeable attorney can advise you throughout settlement negotiations, and, if necessary, advocate for your best interests at trial. 

If you are a dependent spouse seeking support, or a supporting spouse defending against a claim for spousal support, the family law attorneys at Hopper Cummings can help. We can provide you with a candid assessment of the merits of your case, discuss options that are available, and ensure that your legal rights and interests are protected. We are committed to achieving client satisfaction through effective advocacy, and prompt and personalized client service. 

Call us today at 919-533-4115, or complete our online form for a confidential consultation with one of our family law attorneys.

Alimony and Support Articles

This article and all of the content on this website are intended for information purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice or substituted for consultation with an experienced attorney. We strive to ensure the content on our site is current, informative, and based on North Carolina law and practice procedure in effect at the time of its writing and publication. Call our office to schedule a consultation at 919-533-4115, email us at, or complete a contact form on any page of this site for specific and accurate information about your unique matter.

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