How does Alimony (Spousal Support) in Georgia work?
Alimony (also referred to as “spousal support”) is a court-ordered payment from one spouse to the other to help maintain the marital standard of living or keep the lower-earning spouse financially stable for a period of time during and after the divorce.
The concept of spousal support isn’t new and was most common in “traditional” marriages where one spouse worked while the other stayed home to raise a family. Although it’s common for both spouses to work outside of the home today, spousal support remains an option for the court to ensure economic fairness in a divorce.
What types of Spousal Support are available in Georgia?
In Georgia, Judges can order temporary or permanent alimony. (Ga. Code Ann. § 19-6-4 (2018).) Temporary alimony is appropriate in cases where one spouse needs financial support while the divorce is pending in court. The legal process for divorce can take anywhere from a few months to over a year, depending on local rules and the facts of each case. During this time, spouses must adjust from a two-income household to one income.
If you’re used to your spouse working full-time to support your family, it’s common to feel overwhelmed when it’s time to move into separate homes and pay debts that your spouse paid in the past. To ensure financial fairness for both spouses, the court may order one spouse to support the other until the judge finalizes the divorce. An award of temporary spousal support doesn’t guarantee alimony after the divorce. The judge decides whether permanent alimony is appropriate and if so, will create a new order that will continue in effect after the divorce.
Permanent Alimony (Spousal Support) sounds daunting, but even when the court orders it, it’s rarely for an unlimited period. The most common alimony awards after the divorce are for spouses who need temporary support to acquire job training or education that will allow the spouse to find employment and become self-supporting. Georgia courts reserve truly permanent (long-term) alimony for spouses who are unable to find a job and support themselves due to advanced age or disability.
To ensure financial fairness for both spouses, the court may order one spouse to support the other until the judge finalizes the divorce.
HOW DO I QUALIFY FOR ALIMONY?
Either spouse can request alimony. However, before the court awards alimony, the judge must find that one spouse needs the support, and the other can pay. If there is a need and ability to pay, the court will consider the following factors when creating a final support award:
- the couple’s marital standard of living
- the length of the marriage
- each spouse’s age, physical, and emotional health
- both spouse’s financial resources
- the time necessary for the supported spouse to acquire sufficient training or training to find appropriate employment
- each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including childcare, education, and career-building of the other spouse
- the financial conditions of each spouse, including separate property, earning capacity, and separate debts, and any other factor the court deems equitable. (Ga. Code Ann. § 19-6-5 (2018).)
Georgia courts also consider whether one spouse’s marital misconduct caused the breakdown of the marriage. A judge may reduce or even deny alimony for a spouse who/ otherwise qualifies but deserted the other spouse or committed adultery during the marriage. (Ga. Code Ann. § 19-6-1 (b) (2018).) The court may award permanent alimony to the victim of marital misconduct. (Ga. Conn Ann. § 19-6-4 (2018).)
THERE IS NO SPECIFIC FORMULA TO CALCULATE SPOUSAL SUPPORT IN GEORGIA
If there is no adultery or desertion, and there is a need and ability to pay, the judge will weigh each factor equally. Courts in Georgia determine if alimony is appropriate and the type, duration, and amount of the final award on a case by case basis.
If you live in the Atlanta area and are in need of a qualified Divorce Attorney, request your free consultation with Attorney Sean R. Whitworth today. Our office charges flat fees and offers free consultations for all divorce law services. Book your appointment online by filling out the form below or call our office at 770-824-3370.