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What Is Alimony?
Alimony may be granted in Georgia in cases of divorce. O.C.G.A. §19-6-4. As there are several financial aspects of divorce, many are often unsure how alimony, equitable division and child support are to be distinguished. Alimony is an allowance out of one spouse’s (or ex-spouse’s) separate estate for the support of the other spouse when the spouses are living separately. O.C.G.A. 19-6-1. The purpose of alimony is to provide the support to one spouse or ex-spouse if that spouse is in need of economic support. However, an award of alimony will not be solely based on the needs of one spouse. The ability of the other spouse to pay alimony will be considered as well. Id.
A court or jury is not required to make an award of alimony in every case.
Who is Entitled to Alimony?
Certain general principles will be considered by the court or jury in deciding whether a spouse is entitled to alimony. These principles include:
- Adultery or desertion on the part of either spouse. If it is proven that the separation between the spouses was caused by the adultery or desertion, the culpable party will be barred from receiving alimony.
- The needs of the spouse seeking alimony, and the ability of the other spouse to pay.
- The cause of the parties’ separation.
- Evidence of conduct toward the other.
- The success of the divorce action. If the claim of alimony is incidental to a divorce action and the divorce is denied, the claim for alimony is also terminated.
- The voluntary provision of support by one spouse to the other. If one spouse has already voluntarily agreed to support the other spouse consistent with that spouse’s needs, the recipient spouse will be barred from recovering alimony unless the agreement between the spouses is invalid or the other spouse refuses to comply with the terms of the agreement.
- The basis for the divorce. If the divorce is granted on the ground of fraud, duress or any other grounds which attack the validity of the marriage contract itself, alimony will not be awarded.
See O.C.G.A. § 19-6-1; O.C.G.A. § 19-6-8; Clements v. Clements, 255 Ga. 714 (1986); Owens v. Owens, 247 Ga. 139 (1981);Davis v. Davis, 206 Ga. 559 (1950); Ridgeway v. Ridgeway, 224 Ga. 310 (1968); Walker v. Walker, 53 Ga.App. 769 (1936);York v. York, 202 Ga. 50 (1947).
Determining the Alimony Amount
Once a court or jury determines that alimony is warranted, the amount and duration of alimony must be determined. In Georgia, there is no formula or specific calculation used to determine the alimony amount. Instead, courts rely upon certain factors in determining the alimony amount. These factors, often known as the alimony factors, include:
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties;
- The financial resources of each party;
- Where applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him to find appropriate employment;
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
- The condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties; and
- Such other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper.
O.C.G.A. § 19-6-5. For further information, see our sections addressing these alimony factors individually.
Temporary vs. Permanent
Alimony in Georgia may be temporary or permanent. If permanent alimony is awarded, alimony payments may continue indefinitely during the life of the recipient spouse. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-4; 19-6-9. If temporary alimony is awarded, the court will make a determination regarding the term of alimony payments. Although permanent alimony is available, in most cases it is much more common for temporary alimony to be awarded. In addition to temporary or permanent alimony, which often takes the form of monthly or bimonthly payments, alimony may also be awarded as a lump sum. Johnson v. Johnson, 220 Ga. 461 (1964). In Georgia, alimony may only be awarded incident to the dissolution of a marriage and may not be awarded incident to the dissolution to any other type of relationship. Although recognized by some other states, the concept of palimony is not recognized in Georgia and any attempt by one party to seek it will not be granted by Georgia’s courts. Samples v. Monroe, 183 Ga.App. 187.
Similar to issues concerning child custody and child support, the term and amount of alimony may be agreed upon by the parties. If the parties are able to come to a consensus concerning alimony, such an agreement must be reviewed and approved by the court presiding over the divorce. If the presiding court approves the agreement, it will be incorporated into the final judgment and decree of divorce and enforced as any other order of the court would be. Maxwell v. Britt, 171 Ga.App. 230 (1984).