Alimony is a form of post-divorce spousal support made to one former spouse from another former spouse. In Georgia, alimony is not a right, but it can be appropriate in certain situations and awarded over time or in one lump sum after a divorce settlement. In order to determine eligibility, courts consider a number of issues, including the needs, income and assets of each spouse. Because alimony is not awarded in every case and unlike child support there is no formula for determining the amount, alimony is the often the most difficult aspect of a divorce to resolve.
Georgia law does NOT provide a formula for calculating alimony, but several other states and organizations have developed formulas for calculating alimony. The AMD Alimony Estimator generates an estimate to help to set expectations and can be used as the basis for discussions or negotiations about the right amount of alimony in your situation. The AMD Alimony Estimator does not predict or calculate the amount of alimony a judge would determine is appropriate in your case.
When alimony is awarded by a court or agreed upon by the parties as part of a divorce settlement it is typically given to a spouse who has minimal income earning potential in a marriage lasting at least ten years. It is often classified as rehabilitative and is intended to be a short-term measure which enables a spouse to get back on his or her feet.
Although the length of marriage is one of the factors used to determine the amount and duration of alimony, if alimony is awarded at all, this is only one of several factors. According to Georgia law there are several legal factors that must be considered when determining alimony:
Courts also have the ability to consider any other relevant factors. Additionally, in Georgia, if one spouse proves that the other spouse committed adultery during the marriage, and that adultery resulted in the breakdown of the marriage, the offending spouse is barred from receiving an award of alimony. Learn more about Alimony Law in Georgia.
You don’t have to wait until your divorce is over to receive alimony. Temporary alimony can be ordered by the court for the period after separation but before a divorce is final. Once a divorce is filed, either party can ask the presiding judge to grant temporary alimony including attorney’s fees connected to the divorce. When determining whether someone should receive temporary alimony or support, the judge will look at the needs of each party. You and your spouse can also agree to a temporary amount of support while you work towards settlement even if you have not filed for divorce.
Temporary alimony ends when a final order is entered in your case. There is no set duration for permanent alimony. The term permanent alimony is used to distinguish it from temporary alimony. In Georgia, permanent alimony is alimony paid after the divorce is finalized. It can be categorized as “rehabilitative” or “lifetime.” Lifetime alimony, or alimony for an extended period of time, possibly until the death of the recipient, is rare and is usually awarded only when one of the parties is unable to work due to age, physical disability, or mental illness. Rehabilitative alimony is alimony that’s provided for a period of time following a divorce to help the spouse reestablish their career or their earnings capacity so that they’re able to meet their financial needs on their own following the divorce.
Alimony typically terminates upon the remarriage of the recipient spouse. If the spouse ordered to pay alimony can show the court the recipient spouse has remarried, the obligated spouse can petition the court to terminate the alimony obligation. An obligated spouse may also petition the court to terminate the alimony obligation if he or she can prove the recipient spouse is living with a new girlfriend or boyfriend.
Alimony can also be classified as modifiable or able to be changed by the parties based on financial circumstances or non-modifiable where the amount cannot go up or down regardless of each parties’ financial circumstances. Alimony payments are based on real world factors at the time of divorce and if your alimony is modifiable and circumstances change materially for either spouse after divorce, courts can reduce or increase the amount of alimony to better reflect reality. However, you should not agree to an amount of alimony thinking that a court is going to adjust the amount every time there is a change in one spouse’s circumstances. Alimony modifications are typically limited to significant income changes due to unemployment, disability, or other major financial changes. There are also limits on how often modifications may be requested.
Although monthly payments are more common, in Georgia alimony may also be awarded in the form of a lump sum cash payment. This type of alimony should not be confused with the equitable division of marital property. Lump sum alimony is not the division of the parties’ marital assets. Lump sum alimony is when one spouse pays the other a one-time payment from that spouse’s separate estate or separate funds. Another source of funds that may be used to satisfy a lump sum alimony award is a retirement plan or retirement account like a 401(k) or IRA. If a court orders that lump sum alimony must be derived from this type of source, the court will enter a qualified domestic relations order so that the funds may be split without incurring taxes. Lump sum alimony can be beneficial to the recipient as this form of payment eliminates the concern that the obligated spouse may stop paying the monthly obligation. Additionally, unlike periodic alimony, lump sum alimony is not subject to modification or termination.