Going through a divorce has the potential to upend your personal and professional life. Studies from 2018 found that 39% of marriages end in divorce, and the CDC published that 746,971 divorces and annulments occurred in the United States in 2019.
The strain of separation and divorce particularly affects those individuals who rely on their spouse’s income or spend their energy maintaining the household or raising children. Spouses going through a separation or divorce who need financial support may qualify for alimony. These payments can help ease the financial burden during this transitional time.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony refers to “court-ordered payments awarded to a spouse or former spouse within a separation or divorce agreement.” Separating a household may result in one spouse becoming financially unstable. Alimony payments support the spouse who earns a lower annual income or no income at all during or after the divorce.
The conditions under which a court grants alimony differ between states, and each case brings unique factors under consideration. While the recipient spouse’s gender does not matter, the financial circumstances of both parties do matter. Judges analyze the marital and financial situation before determining whether a spouse receives alimony, what kind, the duration and the overall amount.
Types of Alimony
Alimony comes in different types of payments. Temporary, permanent and reimbursement alimony vary in duration and purpose. Lump-sum payments (one time), property transfer or periodic monthly payments refer to how the spouse makes the payments. Periodic alimony awards are the most common. Both parties should note that they cannot modify, terminate or undo lump-sum payments and property transfers.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
The duration of alimony payments depends on the type of alimony as well as the needs of the spouse. Georgia courts can award both temporary and permanent alimony, also known as perpetual alimony.
In Georgia, courts often award temporary alimony for a set amount of time. Sometimes temporary alimony only lasts for the duration of the divorce process. In these cases, alimony ensures that the spouses maintain financial equality during the divorce proceedings.
Reimbursement alimony also falls under the category of temporary alimony. This involves a spouse paying back the other for any expenses paid during the marriage. A prime example is if one spouse paid for the other’s education or training.
Some cases require temporary alimony until the recipient spouse can obtain the appropriate education or training in order to find a job. The spouse should aim to achieve financial stability for themselves, so they no longer need the payments. This is especially important if the spouse stalled their career, chose to focus on homemaking, raised children and relied on the other spouse’s income during their marriage.
Permanent or perpetual alimony refers to ongoing payments awarded to a spouse over a long period of time. Some cases of permanent alimony come with an expiration date, established by a judge or the divorcing parties, after which the payer no longer needs to provide financial support. In Georgia courts, spouses who cannot find a job or support themselves due to advanced age or disability can receive truly permanent alimony from former spouses.
With long-term alimony, the payments can end under the following circumstances:
- The judge has set an expiration date
- The receiving spouse remarries
- The receiving spouse cohabitates with another individual
- Children no longer require a parent at home
Judges also have the power to say an alimony recipient has not done enough to obtain financial stability, in which case judges can terminate alimony. At any time, though, either spouse can ask the court to review the ordered alimony if circumstances change and the spouses need the alimony modified.
Determining Your Eligibility For Alimony
Courts consider the particular details of individual cases to determine alimony. The amount of alimony due to a spouse and its duration vary. Determining your eligibility involves speaking to a lawyer who can analyze the specifics of your case.
In a separation or divorce, either spouse can request alimony, but a judge must find that one spouse requires support and that the other can pay for it. Among other relevant factors, courts will review these factors before awarding alimony:
- The couple’s marital standard of living
- The duration of the marriage (Typically, judges award alimony to ex-spouses of long-term marriages.)
- Spouses’ ages, physical and emotional condition
- Both spouses’ financial resources
- Necessary time for the supported spouse to obtain sufficient education or training to secure appropriate employment
The spouses’ contributions to the marriage, including homemaking, childcare, education and career-building of the other spouse
The financial conditions of each spouse, including separate property, earning capacity and fixed liabilities (debts)
Cases Where Alimony Is Not Awarded
Cases where a judge decides not to grant alimony relate to the spouses’ income, the length of the marriage and spousal misconduct. If both spouses earn a similar annual income, then the judge will likely view alimony payments as unnecessary. A short-lived marriage might also negate the need for alimony.
Georgia courts also address whether marital misconduct caused the divorce. Judges reserve the right to reduce or deny alimony for an otherwise qualified spouse if they deserted their partner or committed adultery. The judge may actually award permanent alimony to the victim of marital misconduct.
Providing the Advice You Need
Platt Family Law provides families, couples and individuals with comprehensive, compassionate legal advice for a variety of family law matters. Our trusted legal team works with you so that you understand local laws as well as the process, details and responsibilities of your case. With nearly two decades of experience, this Roswell law firm provides excellent advice and finds equitable solutions to your case. If you need support, Platt Family Law comes through. Learn more about alimony and contact us at 404-255-3434.