Alimony and Spousal Support
Post-divorce spousal support, which is often referred to as "alimony" or "separate maintenance," can be awarded for a number of reasons. Unlike child support, there are no State requirements for spousal support awards in divorce. In general, it is intended to take into account the contributions of spouses, either male or female, who have cared for the children or supported the careers of their working spouses.
In Georgia, alimony is not a right, but it can be appropriate in certain situations and awarded over time or in one lump sum after a divorce settlement. In order to determine eligibility, courts consider a number of issues, including the needs, income and assets of each spouse.
Determining Spousal Support
When determining whether alimony is to be awarded, courts look at a variety of criteria, including:
- The standard of living enjoyed by the couple
- How long the marriage lasted
- The income and assets of each spouse, including retirement accounts
- The earning potential of each spouse
- How long would it take to retrain the non-working spouse
- The age of each spouse at the end of the divorce
- How well the couple treated each other
4 Types of Alimony
Many people don't know that alimony payments may be temporary or permanent, and they can change during the divorce process and over time. Alimony can be structured in a few ways.
What is Temporary Alimony?
Temporary alimony is generally designed to allow for the support and maintenance of one spouse while a divorce or separation action is pending. If spouses are living in separate homes during this period, temporary alimony might be intended to help preserve assets, such as home equity, or to protect credit. Failure to pay liabilities like mortgages, loans, and credit card debt will very likely impact a person's credit score.
For example, temporary alimony may apply to a situation in which the husband makes all of the income and the wife stays at home with the kids. If the husband moves out, the wife will need money to pay the bills and take care of the kids. The husband would pay temporary alimony to the wife while the divorce is happening.
It's important to keep in mind the practical challenges with taking a family revenue stream accustomed to supporting a single household and making it stretch to support two households.
If your spouse is unwilling to provide financial support on a temporary basis, you may need to request a temporary hearing in order to secure your immediate financial well-being and protect your financial interests and credit.
What is the Process for Receiving Temporary Alimony?
With your attorney, you need to address temporary alimony at your temporary hearing. To do that, you need to request a temporary hearing. Otherwise, you will not be able to deal with issues of child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, debts and possession of real and personal property on a temporary basis while you're going through the divorce process.
Your temporary alimony will be included in the temporary order issued by the judge—and that temporary alimony will apply until the time of your final trial or until modified by a subsequent Court Order. Typically, the amount of your temporary alimony will be the same as your final alimony unless significant change takes place in mediation or the settlement process.
Many people do not know about temporary alimony. It's important to meet with us to discuss this option to see if it helps you.
In rare cases, judges may determine that a spouse deserves permanent alimony. That means that payments are made to the other spouse that last as long as the person paying or the person getting paid is alive or remarries. Usually, this kind of alimony will result from specific circumstances such as extremely long marriages, debilitating health issues, or age.
Permanent alimony doesn't have to come in the way of cash payments but may also take the form of use, ownership, or possession of real, personal, or intangible property owned by the other spouse.
This is becoming increasingly rare as the majority of people in this stage of life no longer have continual income but instead are living off of retirement and assets accumulated in the marriage.
Periodic alimony is a form of permanent alimony usually paid in installments over time. The word 'permanent' can be deceptive, in that it does not necessarily mean 'forever.' Periodic alimony is usually set for a definite period of time, although the amount of the installment payments may vary.
- One spouse may receive periodic alimony of $2,000 per month for five years; or
- One spouse may receive $5,000 per month for two years, and then $2,500 per month for three years.
This form of alimony may be desirable if the recipient spouse wishes to have a 'regular' income stream or if the paying spouse wishes to be able to pay over time rather than in a single, larger payment. Periodic alimony also affords certain tax benefits and can contemplate the possibility of change over time.
Periodic alimony is usually tax-deductible to the paying spouse and reportable as income for the recipient spouse. It is also usually subject to end prior to payment in full should the recipient spouse die or get remarried. This form of alimony can be subject to future modifications as to the amount of payments, but not as to the duration.
Modifications to Periodic Alimony
Modifying periodic alimony payments is incredibly difficult but possible. If modified, they usually tend to be decreased. Common reasons for modification include:
- Loss of a job
- Getting a new job that pays significantly more income
- Marrying someone with a lot of money
- Children all graduated from college
- Children married
- Children moved out of the state
Also, people sometimes choose to end periodic alimony payments with a final lump sum alimony payment.
Periodic alimony requires an ongoing relationship between former spouses and may cause problems with the collection since payments are due overtime.
Additional Alimony Facts
Some other important alimony facts include the following:
Unlike child support, no State requirements for spousal support awards in divorce exist.
Alimony is generally not available in situations where both spouses worked during the marriage and can support themselves.
If granted, alimony is enforceable by either an action for contempt or by garnishment and execution on property.
Alimony & Spousal Support FAQ
What is Alimony or Spousal Support?
Alimony, which is also often called spousal support, is money that is paid from one spouse to another after a divorce is final. This is typically awarded due to a significant discrepancy in the incomes of the spouses. It may also be awarded to a spouse who has stayed at home with children instead of pursuing a career. If one spouse has custody of the children, though, alimony is not affected by that status, as custody is not part of the alimony calculation in Georgia.
Is there a Difference Between Spousal Support and Alimony?
There is technically no difference between spousal support and alimony in Georgia, as the two terms are used interchangeably. Some people prefer one over the other, but they will mean the same thing when it comes to how the money is awarded and what is considered in the process.
How is Alimony Calculated?
Alimony is calculated by the courts, based on the income of both spouses. However, there are often extenuating circumstances that are also considered. These can include issues such as marital fault and standard of living. If one party to the divorce is considered to be at fault, the amount of alimony they may be asked to pay could be higher. Additionally, if the divorce will significantly change the standard of living for one spouse, the other spouse's alimony payment may be increased to reflect a standard closer to what that spouse had during the marriage.
How Does One Receive Alimony Payments?
To receive alimony, a court must order it. In many cases, a divorce does not include alimony. However, this is decided on a case-by-case basis in the state of Georgia, so it is possible for any divorcing couple to have alimony requirements as part of the end of their marriage. Most commonly, though, higher-income earners or spouses where one has worked and the other has stayed home, as well as those who have been married for a number of years, are the ones who typically have alimony as part of their divorce.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
A judge will determine how long the alimony will be paid for. In some cases, the alimony may be permanent. There are also formulas sometimes used, such as one year of alimony for every three years of marriage. The receiving spouse getting remarried or cohabitating often ends alimony, as well, but that is not the case for every divorcing couple.
Find an Alimony Attorney Near You
In Georgia, alimony is not guaranteed and the process is somewhat complex. That's why it's important for our Atlanta-based attorneys to work on your behalf to maximize your chances of achieving your alimony goals.
Whether you are seeking alimony in your divorce or opposing it, an experienced divorce lawyer at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor can assist you. Call our offices at 678-971-3413 or contact us online.
If the court has already issued an alimony decision, don't worry. We can also help guide you through the appeals process.