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The Fundamentals of Alimony

  • What is alimony?

    When a married couple gets divorced, the divorce court may order one spouse to pay spousal support—known as alimony—to the other spouse. The basis of an alimony award can either be a prenuptial agreement the couple entered into before they got married, or the court itself may decide to award it. Whether you will have to pay alimony, how much you will have to pay, and how long you will have to pay it all depend on several factors, discussed below.

    Will you have to pay it?

    Alimony awards are based on financial need and they are normally paid by the spouse who was primarily financially responsible for the support of the other spouse and the family. If you and your spouse are both financially independent, it is unlikely that either of you will have to pay alimony. If you fit this role, you may have to pay alimony. Courts in Georgia will also consider whether one spouse’s behavior led to the breakdown of the marriage—for example, one spouse who otherwise might have received alimony may be barred from receiving it if the court finds that that spouse committed adultery or abandoned the other spouse. You may also have no choice but to pay alimony if you agreed to do so in a prenuptial agreement.

    How much will you have to pay?

    As mentioned above, alimony is based on financial need and ability to pay. Although some states use a mathematical calculation to determine the amount that the financially responsible spouse will have to pay, Georgia does not. Rather, divorce courts in Georgia will examine several factors when deciding whether to award alimony and how much to award, including:

    • Each spouse’s earning capacity, separate estate, financial resources, and debts
    • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including homemaking, child care, education, and career building for the other spouse
    • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
    • Each spouse’s age, and physical and emotional condition
    • Any time necessary for either spouse to obtain education and training for appropriate employment, and
    • The length of the marriage

    Because these factors are intensely fact-specific and depend on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the divorce, judges have a great degree of discretion when deciding how much alimony to award.

    How long will you have to pay?

    There are two main types of alimony: rehabilitative and permanent. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to be temporary in nature and is designed only to ensure that the spouse who receives it can support themselves while they get back on their feet after the divorce. Permanent alimony, as its name implies, must be paid to the receiving spouse indefinitely. This type of alimony is fairly rare and is intended mostly for spouses who have very poor employment prospects due to ill health or advanced age. The most common arrangement for alimony payments is periodic—either monthly or quarterly, for example—until such time as the court determines it is no longer necessary.

    Contact an Atlanta Divorce Attorney

    If you are going through a divorce and are concerned about potential alimony payments, you need a skilled advocate to guide you through the process. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a divorce attorney, call Mitnick & Associates today at 770-408-7000 or send us an email through our online contact form. We serve the entire Atlanta metro area, including Alpharetta, Roswell, Cumming, Johns Creek, and Milton.