“In the years since I began my family law practice in 1993, the law has not changed at all on alimony. However, the application of the alimony standard - need versus ability to pay – has drastically changed in courts throughout Georgia.”
Alimony is not a punishment. It is based solely on each spouse’s ability to earn money. There is no formula to determine what alimony might be fair for your particular case. That is why it is essential that you hire an attorney that knows how the alimony laws in Georgia are applied to your unique marriage.
The two issues that a judge (or jury) must balance in an alimony case are:
1) one spouse’s need; versus
2) the other spouse’s ability to pay.
Alimony can be awarded as temporary support for a spouse during the divorce for reasons such as to give time to that spouse to get back in the workforce or to gain an education or skill. Alimony then can be awarded at the time of the divorce to be paid in the future for a period of time. Today, it is rare that alimony is granted for life.
Alimony can be awarded in sums to be paid out at regular intervals, such as monthly for a period of years or it can be awarded as a lump sum of money or property.
Factors for determining alimony:
Q: If I can prove my spouse committed adultery, does that affect alimony?
A: In some cases adultery can prevent a spouse from receiving any alimony, regardless of that spouse’s financial need. However, the adultery has to be the reason for the divorce. If your spouse confesses to having an affair and the two of you attempt to save the marriage and resume sexual relations, then the adultery does not bar your spouse from receiving alimony.
Q: If my spouse is emotionally or physically abusive, will I receive alimony?
A: Not necessarily. Alimony is not meant to be used as a punishment for bad behavior or a reward for good behavior in a marriage. Alimony simply is a legal mechanism to equalize the financial balance between the parties, either during the pendency of the divorce case or after the divorce is granted.
Q: If I have a large amount of inherited money or property, can I still receive alimony?
A: That depends, each case is different. (Just like no two marriages are alike) However, any money that the court finds to be “non-marital” that you have would become a factor in your ability to support yourself and would necessarily affect alimony considerations.
Q: Are there tax benefits for alimony?
A: Not any longer. As of January 1, 2019, any award of alimony has no tax consequences as income to the recipient or as a deduction of the spouse making the payments. However, tax laws are constantly being revised at the federal level and the tax treatment of alimony is constantly subject to change.
Q: Can I change alimony after a divorce?
A: Yes, but there must be a legal change of circumstances. For instance, if the spouse who receives alimony begins earning much more that he or she earned at the time of the divorce, a lawsuit for a Modification of Alimony would need to be filed. On the other hand, if the party who was ordered to pay alimony becomes disabled or his employer goes out of business, he or she may file a Modification of Alimony lawsuit.