Dear Carolyn,

How can someone defend themselves against alimony?

To make a long story short, a husband and wife were in a marriage way too long.  The husband stayed because of the children, but the marriage went from bad to worse.

The wife worked until the children were born then stayed at home, working part time making a good salary and then working full time about five years ago.

The husbandmakes a substantially higher salary of around $100,000, while the wife makes about $40,000. The husband was willing to take on the majority of the marital debt of around $60,000. He also signed over half of his 401(k) and let his wife have all the marital assets inside the home.

The wife is now saying that her husband abused her and that she is unable to work due to illness. (Both are untrue). The wife abandoned the marital bedroom then abandoned the marriage and hasn’t paid any of the couple’s debt. She has also turned their three adult children against their father.

With all the other claims and divorce finally behind him, the husband only has alimony hovering over his head. He wants to do the right thing, but paying the majority of the debt will take at least 25 years, and they also have two mortgages on their home.  Even though he has the earning capacity, there is no money left for alimony – he is actually in the hole on average $1,200 a month.  Once the house sells, he will have to live somewhere.

There are things listed on the wife’s financial standing affidavit, like a future car, 401(k), potential this and that; he also has these issues.

The wife, who comes from a wealthy family, is represented and her family is paying for it. After all the expenses of the divorce, the husband no longer has the means to pay for an attorney.

My questions are: How will a judge handle the debt versus alimony issue and will a judge give the husband a reasonable amount to live on month to month?


Carolyn Answers …

This is a doozie of a question and thanks for asking. I would encourage the husband to obtain an attorney. There is no way he should be representing himself on this one. I wish I knew what county this case is in; local customs impact alimony decisions by judges.

I have some good news for you, however. If the evidence is properly presented, the court is required to consider “relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support” in determining the amount and duration of alimony per North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-16.3A(b)(10). Thus the husband will want to present to the court the agreement or court order that makes him responsible for the marital debt.

Yes, the husband gets a reasonable amount for his living expenses. The court will set a reasonable budget for the husband’s lifestyle needs, plus the monthly debt service he must bear. Only the remainder after that should be considered available for alimony. It seems from the fact pattern that there may be minor children, and if so, then the child support the husband pays is also considered.

Let me give you a hypothetical example. This example may not have as much debt as the husband in question. The husband makes $105,000, which after taxes nets the husband $85,000. Let’s say he needs $36,000 a year for his housing, food, car, utilities and other needs and his marital debt service is $24,000 a year. This leaves $25,000 available for alimony per year. However, if there is child support of $1,000 per month ($12,000 per year), that means only $13,000 available for alimony per year. If the debt is higher than in my example, he could easily owe no alimony.

The other angle is that the ex-wife makes $40,000. Does she have any real needs above this? Can she live on this? There is one case where retirement savings was allowed as an expense for alimony, but typically this is not a budget item for the ex-wife in situations in this economic bracket, plus the wife has a retirement account. I have not seen a judge allow a hypothetical future car payment and I would argue that is speculative.

Digest this information and write again if you have other questions.


Dear Carolyn,

I broke up with my boyfriend and he has nude photos of me. He has threatened to expose them on Facebook. Can he do this?


Carolyn Answers …

This threat is in the category of revenge porn. There is a law that makes his conduct a Class H felony for disclosure – NC General Statutes Section 14-290.5A.

I would tell him about the felony and that should be a deterrent to his posting. Ask him to destroy all copies of the photos of you. There is an amendment to the revenge porn statute that is advancing through the North Carolina Legislature right now.

Look for the next Ask Carolyn in two weeks, and I’ll give you more information on revenge porn in North Carolina.


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Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.