Alimony or spousal support is a payment by one spouse to another in accordance with either a settlement agreement of a court decision. The purpose of alimony is to provide for the support and maintenance of one spouse to correct any unfair economic effects caused by divorce. A court or jury may award alimony to either the husband or wife, however, alimony is not required to be awarded in every case. A court or jury will consider many factors in determining if alimony should be granted and if so the amount of support.
Factors Considered for Entitlement to Alimony
- Adultery or desertion, if proven, will bar the culpable party from receiving alimony
- The needs of the spouse seeking alimony, and and the ability of the other spouse to pay
- The cause of the parties' separation
- Evidence of conduct toward the other
- If alimony is incidental to divorce, and divorce is denied, then the alimony claim is terminated
- Voluntary support by one spouse to the other, will bar recovery for alimony, unless the agreement is invalid or the other spouse fails to provide the agreed upon support
- If the basis of divorce is for fraud, duress, or other grounds which would make the marriage invalid, then alimony will not be awarded
Factors Considered to Determine the Amount and Duration of Alimony
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and physical and emotional condition of both parties
- The financial resources of each party
- The time required for either party to acquire sufficient training or education to enable them to find employment
- The contribution of each party to the marriage (homemaking, childcare, education, career building, etc.)
- The condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties
- Other relevant factors the court deems equitable and proper
Duration and Type of Alimony
Alimony may be temporary or permanent and may be paid periodically or in a lump sum. Alimony that is temporary is alimony that is authorized during the pendency of the divorce proceeding. Alimony that is awarded in the final divorce order is permanent alimony. Permanent alimony may be paid in periodic payments, a lump sum amount, or in an award of property. Permanent alimony may continue until the receiving spouse dies or remarries, or if the obligated spouse dies. The overarching principle for alimony is to balance the need of the spouse entitled to alimony with the ability of the obligated spouse to pay the alimony.
Equitable Division of Marital Property
One of the most contentious and complicated issues of divorce in Georgia is the division of marital property. In Georgia, each spouse is entitled to an equitable share of all marital property acquired during the marriage upon divorce. An equitable share does not mean an equal share. The court or jury will also provide for an equitable division of the couple’s marital debts and obligations upon divorce.
The most difficult aspect of equitable division is classifying property as separate or martial property. Only property and debts acquired by the parties during the marriage are subject to equitable division. Martial property is any property that is acquired during the marriage, excluding gifts to a spouse from a third party or property obtained through an inheritance. Marital property will be divided equitably regardless of how title to the property is held. Any property acquired by either spouse prior to the marriage is not subject to equitable division and remains the separate property of the respective spouse. However, if the separate property increases in value through efforts of the other spouse, the spouse contributing to the increase may be entitled to a portion of that property.
There is not set formula to determine equitable division. Rather, the court or jury will take into account several factors to determine how the marital property should be divided. The judge or jury may consider:
- The contribution of each party to the acquisition and maintenance of the marital property;
- The purpose and intent of the parties regarding the ownership of the property;
- The separate estate or non-marital property of each spouse;
- The length of the marriage;
- The service contributed by each spouse to the family unit; and
- Whether the cause of the separation was misconduct of one of the spouses.
Divorcing spouses may reach a property settlement agreement to avoid expensive and lengthy court proceedings. The judge will review the agreement for equity, but as long as it is fair, it is typically granted.
If you are considering divorce or have been served with a divorce complaint you should speak with an experienced family law attorney about your marital property options to avoid missing critical issues. Contact us at (706) 504-9088 for more information or to schedule a consultation.