When a marriage ends in divorce, one spouse may need to continue financially assisting or supporting the other spouse. Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is paid by the higher-earning spouse to the non-earning or lower-earning spouse and is separate from the division of marital property. Alimony ensures that spouses who may have refrained from pursuing a career so they could care for their family during marriage are supported while they gain the skills needed to support themselves after divorce. Alimony may be mutually agreed upon by both spouses or decided by the court. Here’s everything you need to know about alimony in Georgia.
Types of Alimony
In Georgia, alimony can be temporary or permanent. The court may order temporary alimony be paid during divorce proceedings, after divorce proceedings, or both. Temporary alimony is paid periodically, usually monthly, for a specified length of time. Georgia courts treat alimony as rehabilitative, meaning its purpose is to give the receiving spouse time to gain employment or the skills needed to do so. Permanent alimony is rarely awarded, usually in cases involving individuals who are unlikely to obtain employment, such as those who are elderly or have debilitating health issues. In very rare instances, the court may order a lump-sum payment instead of reoccurring payments.
Determining Factors of Alimony
Alimony is awarded on a case-by-case basis in Georgia and the court has broad discretion to decide eligibility, award amounts, and duration of support. First, the court must consider whether one spouse has a legitimate financial need and if the other spouse has the ability to pay. If there is a financial need for alimony and the ability to pay, the court will then consider several factors when determining alimony awards including:
- Duration of the marriage
- Circumstances that led to the divorce, such as adultery
- Standard of living during the marriage
- The age, health, and mental wellbeing of both spouses
- The contribution of each spouse to the marriage such as homemaking, child care, career building for the other spouse, etc.
- Each spouse’s earning capacity, financial resources, debts, etc.
Alimony Modifications and Termination
In Georgia, after two years have passed since the original alimony order, the court can modify alimony awards if one or both of the spouse’s circumstances change. For example, if one spouse experiences a change in financial status, such as loss of income for the paying spouse or higher wages for the receiving spouse, they can petition the court to modify the alimony award or to terminate it all together. If the spouse receiving alimony begins cohabitating with someone else, the paying spouse may request a reduction in payments or petition to stop paying completely. Alimony will automatically terminate when the receiving spouse remarries. It is worth noting that in Georgia, a lump-sum alimony award cannot be modified.
Whether you settle out of court or your case proceeds to trial, alimony is an important aspect of your divorce. Because of the financial ramifications involved in alimony issues, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney. If you do not have proper legal representation, you might end up with costly financial burdens.
Trinity Hundredmark and Patrick McDonough, family law attorneys at Andersen, Tate & Carr, have decades of experience handling divorces and will work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family. Contact us today for a consultation.