How Does Alimony Work?

When a married couple is in the process of getting divorced in Georgia, one or both spouses are likely to have questions about Alimony, also called Spousal Support. In particular, if one of the partners has alleged fault-based grounds for divorce, or if one of the partners earned significantly less income than the other during the marriage, many concerns about alimony are likely to arise. The two common types of questions we usually receive about alimony include, “How does alimony work?” and, “Who gets it?” The following article explains in detail what alimony is, why it exists, and how it can help families going through divorce.

Understanding What Alimony Is and Why It Exists

To understand whether or not alimony works, it is important to know what it is and why it exists. Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 19-6-1), alimony is defined as “an allowance out of one party’s estate, made for the support of the other party when living separately.” In other words, alimony is support paid by one spouse to the other spouse, even though they are separated. Alimony can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the nature of the divorce.

The statute also makes clear that fault-based grounds for divorce can play a role in determining whether alimony is appropriate. Specifically, the law says that “a party shall not be entitled to alimony if it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the separation between the parties was caused by that party’s adultery or desertion.” In other words, if one party commits adultery or abandons his/her family, then that spouse cannot obtain alimony. For all other cases, the statute emphasizes that alimony can be awarded—although it is not required—in “accordance with the needs of the party and the ability of the other party to pay.”

Does Alimony Work to Provide Sufficient Support?

Alimony is largely designed to provide support for one party in a divorce who, for example, may have earned substantially less income than the other spouse during the marriage or was a stay-at-home parent during the marriage. Since alimony can be temporary or permanent, it is designed to provide either temporary support for one of the parties to get back on her feet, or permanent support for one of the parties for the remainder of his/her lifetime.

Does Georgia law ensure that alimony works as it is supposed to, and that it goes to parties who need it? And is the amount awarded sufficient for the spouse who needs it? Under O.C.G.A. 19-6-5, the following are factors that the court can take into account when making such determinations:

  • Standard of living established during the marriage;
  • Duration of the marriage;
  • Age and physical and emotional condition of both parties;
  • Financial resources of each party;
  • Time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him to find appropriate employment (where applicable);
  • Contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
  • Condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties; and
  • Such other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper.

The court can rely on any of these factors listed, but at the same time is not required to take all into account or to weigh them equally. In addition, the court also can consider any factors that it deems relevant. Given that there is no specific formula and that each case is judged on its own set of facts, the methods for awarding alimony are designed to make alimony work—both for the party receiving the payments, as well as for the party making the payments.

Seek Advice from a Divorce Lawyer in Georgia

If you have questions about alimony, a Georgia divorce lawyer can help. Contact Mitchell & Crunk to speak with a dedicated advocate about your case.