The concept of alimony, also known as spousal support, dates back to a time when husbands were the financial providers and wives rarely worked outside the home or, if they did, it was merely to supplement their spouse’s income. Knowing that divorce left most wives at an economic disadvantage, the courts ordered their former husbands to support them financially until they remarried. Today, it is routine to see both spouses employed outside the home, so alimony isn’t as common in Georgia, but it remains available to ensure that stay-at-home parents or lower-earning spouses are not left financially bereft while they transition to greater economic self-sufficiency.
How is Alimony Calculated in Georgia?
Unlike child support, there is no formula for calculating alimony in Georgia. The spouse seeking support must prove their financial need and the ability of the other spouse to pay. Once these have been proven, the courts arrive at a temporary or permanent alimony amount based on factors like the following:
- Each spouse’s earning capacity and/or access to financial resources
- Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage
- Each spouse’s age and physical condition
- The length of the marriage
- The standard of living the couple enjoyed while married
- The length of time the supported spouse needs to become self-sufficient
- The working spouse’s ability to pay alimony
The court will also consider whether the spouse seeking alimony engaged in any conduct that caused the marriage to break down. In Georgia, this includes adultery or spousal abandonment. The key is whether the behavior caused the divorce.
For example, if a husband cheats on his wife, she forgives him, and they get back together only to file for divorce three years later, the adultery probably won’t bar him from seeking alimony. It’s a different matter if she files for divorce soon after learning about the adultery, unwilling to remain married to someone who was unfaithful to her.
What Types of Alimony Are Available?
If one spouse requires support during the divorce proceedings, the court may order temporary, interim alimony, also known as pendente lite support. Once the divorce is finalized, the alimony may continue on a temporary or permanent basis.
It should be noted that permanent alimony is uncommon. When awarded, it is usually because the couple was married for over 20 years or the receiving spouse suffers from a condition that prevents them from becoming self-sufficient. In the majority of cases, alimony is paid only until the recipient spouse finds a job or completes the training needed to find gainful employment.
Modification or Termination of Alimony
If either spouse can prove that they have experienced a significant change in circumstances that affect their need for, or ability to pay, alimony (for example, the recipient spouse gets a full-time job or the payor is laid off at work), the court can modify the amounts payable. Alimony automatically terminates when the recipient remarries or, in some cases, cohabits with a new partner in a relationship similar to a marriage.
Consult a Georgia Alimony Attorney
If you are preparing for divorce and alimony is likely to be a part of the divorce agreement, an experienced Atlanta family law attorney can help you get the amount you need or protect you from having to pay an unfair or unreasonable amount. The family law team at Atlanta Family & Immigration Law will look after your best interests during negotiations and even at trial if necessary. To schedule a consultation, call 678.601.5580 or contact us.