What Power Does My Spouse Have After a Decade+ of Separation Support?

Hello all! Sorry in advance for the longer post, but I have a few questions that all are required to understand “how much leverage” my spouse has. I will first try to give an accurate timeline of pertinent events, and then numbered questions.

  • We were married in 1989
  • In 1999, my wife left the marital bed to sleep with our 4-year-old daughter (we also had a 9-year-old son in another room at the time). Sex was becoming less and less frequent – completely her choice despite my requests for more.
  • In 2000, I took a job in GA. I stayed in GA Mon-Thurs, and initially was home Fri-Sun. By the end of the year, she asked me to stay in hotel when I came back to town to see my kids (this was with no “event” to trigger this request).
  • In Late 2001, we reconciled and agreed to build/buy a new house and move back in together. She slept with me in the master bed again, and there were infrequent sexual relations again.
  • By early 2002, I was working in my hometown in NC again and fully living at home with my family. Shortly after I returned “full time” with no travel, she again left our bed to sleep with our now 7-year-old daughter.
  • Until mid-2002, she would occasionally have sex and then sleep in my bed, but that got less and less frequent. She made it clear in June/July 2002 that she was no longer interested in any kind of intimacy with me. Again, there was no explanation or “triggering event”.
  • In late August of 2002, she came to me one night and said, “Nothing has changed between us, but we can have sex if you want to.” That was the last intimacy we ever had.
  • Also starting in 2002, she started to drink alcohol nightly – and not just some wine with dinner.
  • Her drinking steadily increased to the point of drinking almost a box of wine every night (3 bottles worth or so). She was drunk and abusive towards me, including physical abuse. She would often oversleep the next day to the point of not taking our kids to school etc.
  • I called the police on her at least three times over the next few years due to this kind of abuse.
  • Other than the drinking and those episodes of abuse, we were basically “house mates in separate beds” until late 2009. At this point, she was still sharing a bed with my daughter, who was now 14.
  • In late 2009, I told her my desire to downsize the house we were sharing to save money due to my son leaving for college. She agreed so we started looking for a townhouse.
  • I purchased a townhouse that was titled and financed solely in my name. We used my VA benefits, so we put $0 down, meaning there was no equity in the house.
  • When we closed on the townhouse in April 2010, our current house was still not sold. I decided to stay in that house until it was sold, and she moved into the new townhouse right away.
  • It took until November 2010 to finally sell our old house that I was living in. During those seven months apart, we discussed how or if our life / marriage would change when I moved back in. She told me in no uncertain terms that “nothing had changed” and we would still be simply house mates. She refused to even reduce her drinking or get any kind of help with it.
  • I decided in November 2010 that I could not live with the abuse and total lack of contribution from her (my daughter had to come stay with me several times during the initial separation due to her mother not caring for her needs etc).
  • She already had almost all the furniture etc from the house. I delivered the rest to her door other than my TV and a bed, and I moved in with a male friend.
  • When our old house sold, she insisted the cash that was paid to us from the equity was split 50/50 and separate checks were issued to each of us. She did this with the realtor without my knowledge.
  • That was our only joint asset at the time of separation: We had zero money in savings, retirement, or investments. She got exactly half of the only asset we had.
  • On the date of our separation, we had over $110K in marital debt – not including any houses. I took on the responsibility of paying all that debt.
  • She never had any income in our entire marriage – I was and am the sole earner.
  • When I did not move into the new house in April 2010, I was paying all her fixed living expenses (mortgage, utilities, cell, insurance etc) plus $2,000 per month in cash to help care for our 15-year-old daughter and paid that cash amount for almost two years.
  • At age 16, my daughter went to a boarding school that cost a lot of money. My wife agreed to cut the monthly cash portion to $650.
  • When my daughter finished high school and never moved back in with her, I stopped paying the cash amount. I continued to pay ALL her living expense bills however.
  • Sometime in 2015, the man my wife had been dating moved in with her in the house I was paying for. This increased the utility bills greatly, but I continued to pay them (and still am doing so in today).
  • I also started dating someone around the same time she did in 2014. This person moved in with me in 2015 and I moved out from her in 2017. I moved in with another woman in April 2020.
  • I did not have any extra-marital affairs or relationships before separation, and I do not believe my spouse did either.
  • In late 2020, I refinanced my townhouse (in which she is still living free with her boyfriend) and had to get a “Free Trader Agreement” to do so. We both signed and notarized that agreement. The house and loan are still only in my name.
  • We have no written separation or other related agreements, and have never actually discussed any kind of settlement, timeframes, etc.

I THINK that is all the background needed for my questions. I am hoping to offer her additional time and assistance over the next few years if she agrees to uncontested final divorce and a set end to support payments. Here are my questions If she does NOT agree:

  1. What are her chances at this point of getting additional court-ordered alimony if she fights it? I have been paying 100% of her bills for both her for over 11 years since separation, and her live-in boyfriend for over 6 years.

  2. Due to her excessive drinking, and the abuse and lack of care for my children due to it (to which my adult children will testify), and cessation of any intimacy and leaving the marital bed for over 8 years before separation, do I have possible claim for constructive abandonment to mitigate or eliminate possible alimony?

  3. She has chosen to not work a single day or generate any legitimate income for over 11 years since the separation. She is more than capable to do so, and I think she has had plenty of time to get “back into the workforce” and increase her earning potential. I even paid for training in Medical Coding work early in the separation and offered to pay for more training. Given all of that, what is the likelihood a judge will make me pay for HER attorney if she decides to fight me in the NC courts?

  4. Seeing we have lived apart for over a decade, and she is living in a home solely owned by me, what legal options do I have to make her and her boyfriend vacate if she decides to fight the final divorce?

Thanks in advance for your time and attention.

(1) You have likely exceeded your alimony obligation by paying nearly all or all of her financial support for 11 years of separation for an 11-year marriage. She would likely be unsuccessful on an alimony claim based on the information you’ve provided.

(2) Marital misconduct grounds must have occurred during the marriage and before the date of separation. You may have an argument for constructive abandonment and/or excessive use of alcohol, however, you have likely already met or exceeded your alimony/support obligation at this point in time.

(3) Given that you have voluntarily provided support for 11 years based on an 11-year marriage, it is not likely that you would be ordered to pay her attorney’s fees.

(4) You should file a claim for equitable distribution as the townhome is marital property and it needs to be distributed. It, and the mortgage, can be distributed to her, but you would be entitled to half the marital value plus half of the principal reduction in the mortgage from date of separation to present.


Anna Ayscue

Attorney with Rosen Law Firm Cary • Chapel Hill • Durham • Raleigh • Wake Forest

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