How long does alimony last? It’s a common question, and oftentimes a complicated one to answer. While divorce is never easy, a change in your financial wellbeing is often one of the more undesirable consequences. Divorcing spouses sometimes end up with drastically different financial outcomes. When you establish a new household, your income, living expenses, childcare costs, career training, and other factors determine where and how you will live.
If your divorce will have an impact on your financial situation, you should consider your alimony options. The answers to these important questions provide basic insight into Georgia’s alimony codes.
- How long does alimony last?
- What determines whether you qualify for alimony?
- How much will you receive?
- What happens if your ex-spouse doesn’t pay?
The answers are included in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, under Title 19, Domestic Relations.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
As you begin your new life, alimony can make a big difference in your financial outlook. Depending on your circumstances, the court may grant temporary alimony, permanent alimony, or both.
Temporary alimony assists divorcing spouses as they make the adjustment to their new financial reality. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-319 outlines the provisions under which a spouse may seek temporary alimony. Either party may file a petition at any time while their divorce is pending. The court sets a hearing date. Both parties appear to present evidence supporting their circumstances. At a temporary alimony hearing, the judge doesn’t address a divorce’s merits, although he or she has the option of asking questions about the cause and circumstances.
Based on the evidence presented, the court assesses the financial needs created by the pending divorce and evaluates each party’s assets. The presiding judge uses discretion in determining if either party should receive alimony. An award sometimes includes litigation expenses incurred during the pending divorce. The court amends the order as necessary if circumstances change.
The term “rehabilitative alimony” is a commonly used designation for temporary alimony that has a specific purpose. It’s often allocated for the support, education, and training that make it easier for the lower-income earning spouse to establish a new life. As with other temporary alimony awards, rehabilitative alimony terminates when a court issues a final divorce judgment.
A court sometimes includes a permanent alimony order when it issues a final divorce judgment. The order terminates when the receiving party remarries. If either party’s financial circumstances change, they may petition the court to amend the terms of an alimony award.
O.C.G.A. § 19-6-4 explains the circumstances under which a party may receive permanent alimony.
- Voluntary separation
- When one spouse abandons or drives off the other spouse, against their will
As O.C.G.A. § 19-6-8 explains, when voluntarily or involuntarily separating spouses execute a written agreement for support, it prevents a spouse from seeking permanent alimony. The agreement must provide adequate support and maintenance for the receiving spouse.
Do You Qualify for Alimony?
It wasn’t so long ago when courts awarded alimony primarily to wives. Women often abandoned their careers to become wives and mothers. This tradition often limited their asset accumulation and restricted their ability to earn a living. As women have expanded their professional opportunities, they sometimes generate more income and assets than their spouses. Courts acknowledge this and may award alimony to “either party.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-1 explains how a judge has discretion when considering an alimony award.
- Alimony is “…authorized, but it is not required to be awarded…” based on one spouse’s needs and the other spouse’s ability to pay.
- In considering an award, the court evaluates, “…evidence of the conduct of each party toward the other…”
- If the paying party dies, the receiving party retains the right to collect alimony from the decedent’s estate.
- A spouse does not receive alimony if the evidence proves that their adultery or desertion caused the divorce.
How Much Alimony Will You Receive?
The court determines your alimony amount based on O.C.G.A. § 19-6-5. The code doesn’t designate any set dollar amounts or percentages. The court evaluates each spouse’s financial situation and grants alimony based on eight criteria.
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- Both spouses age and physical conditions
- Each spouse’s financial resources
- The time it will take to train for and find “appropriate employment”
- Each spouse’s marital contributions: homemaking, child care, helping the other spouse build their career, etc.
- Each party’s “condition”: assets, earning capacity, fixed liabilities, etc.
- Other factors that the court considers “…equitable and proper…”
As these standards indicate, Georgia courts have a lot of latitude in determining if a spouse qualifies for alimony.
What Happens If Your Ex-spouse Doesn’t Pay?
As with any other legal obligation, the court has the authority to enforce an alimony order. Georgia codes provide several means by which a judge may enforce an order.
- Earning Income Deduction: As described in O.C.G.A. § 19-6-32, a judge has the option of issuing an order to have child support and alimony automatically deducted from a spouse’s pay. Georgia complies with the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1673(b) codes that prohibit payroll deductions greater than 50% of an income earner’s pay.
- Writ of Fieri Facias (Fi Fa): When the court issues a writ of fieri facias, it places a lien against the responsible spouse’s assets or income.
- Attachment for Contempt: When a responsible spouse refuses to pay, the court may issue a contempt order to force compliance. This has several consequences. The order enables the court to garnish the non-paying spouse’s pay, attach their bank account and other financial assets, and/or sentence them to jail time.
How Long Does Alimony Last?: Contact a Divorce Attorney
When you need alimony to ensure your financial survival, it’s important to consult with a divorce lawyer. Legal professionals provide in-depth information and answers to your most pressing questions. They help you navigate the Domestic Relations Court system and address complex alimony issues.
In Georgia, a judge has wide discretion when considering an alimony order. While you may need financial support to establish and maintain your new household, the court won’t always grant your request. Divorce attorneys know the alimony hearing process. They work closely with each client, arrange hearings, and present favorable evidence to support their client’s position. When your financial wellbeing is at stake, a divorce lawyer provides professional services to help protect your interests.