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Divorce - Alimony and Spousal Support

Alimony and Spousal Support in Georgia. What is alimony and when is it awarded in Georgia Divorce proceedings.

Alimony and Spousal Support in Georgia

Alimony or spousal support is a payment of money required by the court to be paid by one spouse for the support of the other spouse when the parties are living separately. Divorce and separation frequently results in major changes in the financial lives of the parties. One family living as a single unit in a single household must now divide their resources in order that each spouse may live separately. Often there is a large difference in the ability to earn the income necessary to support himself or herself. In Georgia, spousal support or alimony can be used to as a means of providing support for one of the parties after the filing of a divorce action or a suit for separate maintenance.  The help of an experienced attorney is needed when dealing seeking or defending against a claim for alimony.

What is Alimony?

Spousal support is simply an allowance or sum of money made from the income and/or assets of one spouse for the support of the other spouse. See Georgia Code Section 19-6-1. The traditional basis for this was the desire to protect the family by providing support for the normally stay-at-home wife from the husband's earnings or assets. An award of spousal support is now, at least in theory, gender neutral and can be awarded to either spouse.

Types of Alimony?

The Georgia Code states that there are two types of alimony that can be awarded. It is either temporary or permanent. Temporary alimony is generally thought of as the support payment required during the course of the divorce or separation proceedings, and permanent alimony as being spousal support after the grant of a final decree or order. Alimony can be awarded as a periodic (weekly, monthly, yearly) payment or as a fixed sum of money. It can be an allocation of asset(s) out of the spouse's estate.

Who is entitled to receive Alimony?

Georgia Code Section 19-6-1(b) provides that "A party shall not be entitled to alimony if it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the separation between the parties was caused by that party's adultery or desertion." Payment of alimony is authorized, but not required, in all other cases.

What factors affect the award of Alimony?

The court is required to receive evidence of the factual cause of the separation of the parties. The Court should also consider and hear evidence on the needs of a party, the ability of the other party to pay, and the conduct of each party toward the other. Commonly considered factors include:

  1. • length of the marriage;
  2. • age of the parties;
  3. • incomes of each party;
  4. • disparity of income of the parties
  5. • marital standard of living;
  6. • each spouses contribution to the marriage (child care, homemaking, etc.)
  7. • health and physical condition of each party;
  8. • ability to earn a living in the future; and,
  9. • separate assets of each party.

How is alimony calculated?

Georgia law does not provide an official method of calculation of the amount of alimony to be paid. The Court considers the factors described above, and determines if alimony should be awarded and what a "fair" amount of alimony would be. Each case rests on its own merits.

How long is alimony paid for?

Traditionally, alimony was awarded for the life of the wife or until she remarried. This is not required by law. Increasingly, alimony is awarded for some fixed period of time or in a fixed amount which may be paid over a period of time.

What is the likelihood of being awarded alimony?

If there is a trend, then the trend is toward not awarding alimony or awarding it for only limited periods of time. Alimony now tends to be thought of as a matter of "fair play" between the parties based on the overall circumstances of the marriage, or as means rehabilitation of one of the parties, or as helping one of the parties get back into the workforce. More or less, alimony is unlikely to be awarded in a shorter term marriage where both parties worked. But, where the parties were married for many years with a stay-at-home and raise-the-kids wife, some form of alimony is much more likely.

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