Spousal Support Rarely a Life Sentence: Debunking the Fears of Permanent Alimony

For some reason, many people’s ideas about alimony remain stuck in the past. Fifty or more years ago, it was common for a husband to earn all of the money while a wife stayed at home to raise the children and maintain the house. Such a traditional arrangement meant that if they divorced, the woman was in dire need of financial support. Permanent, lifelong alimony often resulted.

Today, permanent alimony still happens but it’s now uncommon. Some states still make it easier to get permanent alimony than others, but Georgia is not one of them. Alimony—whether temporary or permanent—is now judged on a case by case basis. In most cases, it tends to be temporary or rehabilitative—basically making sure the spouse has enough money for a limited period of time to get back on his or her feet.

Let’s look at some reasons why permanent alimony might still get awarded, and then we’ll examine most of the reasons why you probably won’t have to pay alimony to your spouse for life.

Reasons to Award Permanent Alimony

The common thread for these reasons is the near impossibility of your spouse supporting themselves after you divorce. Some reasons may include:

  • Serious or chronic illness. An illness may prevent your spouse from earning a living, and they would need your help for living and medical expenses.
  • Serious disability. Similar to an illness, you may need to pay alimony for life if a disability such as blindness, an injury from an accident, or mental illness prevents your spouse from earning a living and paying for their expenses.
  • Advanced age or nearing end of life. The chance of paying permanent alimony increases if your spouse is near or past retirement age because they will likely not find a means of fully supporting themselves so late in life.
  • The end of a very long marriage. If you and your spouse were married for let’s say over 25 years, there is a higher chance of paying permanent alimony. That’s because your spouse has built much of their life around yours, and judges still often view a divorce after such a long marriage as financially devastating for non-income earning spouses.
  • Any other scenario in which your spouse has no chance of employment or earning money to pay expenses.

Modifications to permanent alimony do occur when:

  • Your spouse remarries. A remarriage indicates that another person has the ability or responsibility to provide income.
  • You are financially unable to pay alimony anymore. You will have to prove this to a court and show that it is financially impossible for you to pay permanent alimony based on your financial situation.

Reasons You Will Likely Not Pay Permanent Alimony

If the above situations don’t apply to you, then it’s likely you will not pay alimony for life. Let’s dig into further detail why.

  • You might not pay alimony at all if your spouse worked. alimony is either permanent or rehabilitative. If there is nothing preventing an already working spouse from continuing to earn a living, then there is often no reason for alimony.
  • You only pay temporary, rehabilitative alimony to give your spouse enough time to get on their feet. That means your spouse cannot expect to receive this alimony forever. alimony laws changed to prevent spouses from just collecting money and not attempting to find work at all. In fact, if your ex-spouse doesn’t attempt to find work, the temporary alimony period may just run out or you can have a vocational expert analyze their capacity for finding work in the hopes of modifying or ending your payments. A court will expect that your spouse makes “reasonable efforts” to find work and build up their skills.
  • Your alimony will be temporary or non-existent if you had a short marriage. There is less chance of paying alimony or paying a high amount if you were married less than 10 years.
  • Your spouse gets remarried or lives with someone who can support them. An obvious end to alimony takes place when your ex-spouse gets financially supported by a new spouse or cohabiting partner.

One Last Note of Caution

Because a state like Georgia doesn’t have any black and white requirements for alimony, you need an attorney to make sure your situation is analyzed properly. Your spouse’s attorney will work hard to get as much alimony as possible.

Call us so you can make sure you’re not put in a legal situation of paying permanent alimony when it’s not required.