Alimony: Insufficient Evidence to Include Spouse’s Future Bonuses

Do future bonuses count for alimony? It depends.

North Carolina family law attorneys must prove bonuses occur "on a consistent basis"; otherwise, case law excludes the same.

In Finn v. Finn, the issue was whether the husband, a Wells Fargo executive, was required to pay alimony to his spouse, a former nurse and homemaker, after a twenty-year marriage. Finn v. Finn, 258 N.C. App. 564 (2018) (unpublished) (hereinafter “Finn I”). On April 7, 2020, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a second opinion on the alimony issue. Finn v. Finn, ___ N.C. App. ___, 2020 N.C. App. LEXIS 276 (April 7, 2020) (unpublished) (hereinafter “Finn II”).

In Finn I, the trial court denied of alimony. On appeal, the trial court's decision was vacated because it failed to consider the husband's annual bonus of $48,000.00. In Finn II, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision to not include the annual bonus in denying alimony to the wife.

In North Carolina, courts award alimony after finding: (1) one spouse is dependent, (2) one spouse is supporting, and (3) an alimony award is equitable after considering all relevant factors, including those in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.3A(b). See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.3A(a). One relevant factor includes “the amount and sources of earned and unearned income.” See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.3A(b)(4). Bonuses may be included in a spouse’s income if received “on a consistent basis.” Burger v. Burger, 249 N.C. App. 1 (2016).

In Finn II, the appellate court held the wife had not shown the bonuses were received "on a consistent basis" because they only occurred the previous two years.

Cases are often decided on nuanced evidence issues. Family law attorneys must have a command of the statutes, case law, and facts of the case. Contact the skilled family law attorneys at Davis & Davis, Attorneys at Law, P.C., including a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, to schedule a consultation today. The above is intended for educational purposes only and constitutes neither legal advice nor an attorney-client relationship.