I agree with whichever attorney told you that you are NOT separated from your spouse so long as you are living in the same house (even though you are living in separate floors).
As for alimony, you are quite correct that there is no magic formula to be found in the North Carolina General Statutes for determining the length or amount of alimony payments. It is very much subjective and dependant upon the judge hearing the case and the pattern of the judges in the jurisdiction. The definition of supporting (and dependant) spouse are also subjective and are not nearly as simple as “does one party earn more than the other.” However, you indicate that you earn twice as much as your wife. I think that it is very likely that a judge would find that you were the supporting spouse during the marriage. Assuming that your wife is earning as much or more as she did during the marriage it is unlikely that a judge would find that she is suppressing her income in bad faith. Based on your disparity in income, I do believe that it is likely that a judge would order you to pay alimony payments.
As the for an estimate on amount and duration of alimony payments, I suggest that you defer to what your attorney advises you is the norm in your local courthouse. He or she should be able to give you a best and worst case scenerio range to consider before you make the decision to let a judge tell you what you are going to pay. Sometimes in my jurisdiction we make a ballpark estimate by calculating half of the difference in the gross monthly income (amount) for half of the term of the marriage (duration). The difference in your gross monthly income is $2,333 (1/2 is $1,166) and you have been married 19 years (1/2 is 9.5 years).
You should know that having to pay alimony isn’t a punishment. It’s not a reflection on anything that anyone did wrong (considering that you say there has been no marital misconduct by either party). It’s just an acknowledgement that you financially supported your family during a long marriage and that your wife is going to need some financial support for a while to establish herself professionally.
Robin F. Verhoeven
Attorney at Law
Rosen Law Firm
4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 200
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
The response posted above is based upon the limited factual information made available and is not intended as a full and complete response to the question. The only reliable manner to obtain complete and adequate legal advice is to consult with an attorney, fully explain your situation, and allow the attorney sufficient opportunity to research the applicable law and facts required to render an accurate opinion. The basic information provided above is intended as a public service but a full discussion with an attorney should be undertaken before taking any action.