The days of wage-earning men and home-making women are long gone. It is no longer the case in most families that when a marriage breaks up, the woman is left with no source of income and no prospects for work. These days, it is far more common for each partner to have the ability to support themselves. For this reason, alimony is not a given in every divorce. Instead, one spouse must show that they require support and maintenance for a certain period of time. Whether I am representing the primary wage-earner or the partner in need of support, I will fight for what is fair for my client.
Factors for Calculating Alimony in Georgia
Alimony—also known as spousal support—is awarded in a Georgia divorce only when one spouse has a legitimate need for support and the other spouse has the ability to pay. For example, if you left a career to stay home full-time with young children and in that time your professional license or certification lapsed, you would have a strong claim for spousal support until you can get back into the workforce and support yourself.
Once it is determined that spousal support is justified, the court will consider a number of factors to calculate the amount of alimony that should be paid. These factors include the following:
- Standard of living. The court will look at the standard of living established during the marriage to determine how much support the non-earning spouse should get. If the earning spouse’s salary was such that the couple lived an extravagant lifestyle, for example, then the court will expect the earner to share the wealth. At the same time, the court does not expect the earning spouse to reduce their standard of living in order to support the dependent spouse.
- Length of marriage. In general, the court will award alimony for a longer period of time following a 30-year marriage than it would for a three-year marriage. However, being married for many years does not guarantee that alimony will be awarded.
- Physical and emotional wellbeing. If one partner has significant medical or psychological needs, the other is expected to provide financial support after divorce. By the same token, an elderly or ill partner would not be expected to pay alimony to a healthy ex-spouse.
- Financial resources. Each party’s finances will be scrutinized to determine the ability to pay and the financial need. The court will look at all sources of income, debt, benefits, and expenses to come up with a dollar figure for spousal support.
- Employment prospects. Regardless of need, alimony payments do not usually go on indefinitely. The dependent spouse is expected to do whatever is necessary to obtain employment. This could involve going to school, renewing professional licenses, or working at an entry-level position for a time. As the alimony recipient’s income goes up, spousal support will be adjusted down until it is gradually eliminated.
- Contribution to the marriage. If one parent stayed home to raise children or did the bulk of the cooking, cleaning, home and yard maintenance, and other tasks, their contribution to the marriage is considered on par with the income-earning partner. In addition, if one partner supported the other while they went to medical school or law school, this is considered a contribution to the marriage.
- Financial future. The court will look at each partner’s separate property and future earning potential in calculating alimony. For example, if one partner kept the family home in the divorce or has a career with a high earning potential, support will be reduced for that partner.
- Other factors. Every marriage is unique, and the court reserves the right to consider any other factor it sees fit to determine the amount of spousal support one party is required to pay the other.
As you can see, there is a lot of room to argue one side or the other in an alimony hearing. As your attorney, I will make sure your interests are represented in a way that ensures that you are treated fairly—whether you are the one paying alimony or the one seeking spousal support. Contact my office to find out how I can help you.