Largely depending on your perspective, alimony payments are either a financial divorce penalty and a relic of a bygone age or a necessary part of an equitable property division, as required by Georgia law. Regardless of your perspective, Chapter 19-6-4 of the Georgia Code provides for alimony payments, the amount and duration of which are largely based on the obligee’s economic need and the obligor’s ability to pay.
Because this law is rather vague, both obligees and obligors have important legal and financial rights in this area. However, these important provisions are nothing but ink on paper unless a Lawrenceville family law attorney stands up for them in court. An attorney also serves as a strong voice for both parties during negotiation sessions. Negotiating skills are maybe more important than advocacy skills, since almost all divorce cases, and other civil cases, settle out of court.
As is the case in most other states, alimony is available in Georgia, but it’s not automatically available. Instead, obligees must qualify based on several factors, such as:
- Premarital Agreements: Most Gwinnett County judges uphold most premarital agreements, even if they are one-sided, as long as each spouse had an independent Lawrenceville family law attorney throughout the process.
- Relative Age, Health, and Education: Generally speaking, young people who are healthy and well-educated have more earning power than people who are older, in bad health, and/or poorly educated. There is a slight presumption in favor of women in this area, since divorced women are more likely to be impoverished than divorced men.
- Noneconomic Contributions to the Marriage: The “homemaker factor” usually doesn’t carry much weight, since most couples share the breadwinner and caregiver roles, at least to some extent. However, this factor could be significant, especially if a spouse gave up significant career opportunities to be a full-time caregiver.
- Child Custody: This factor could have immediate and long-term effects. It’s usually in the best interests of the children for them to remain in the marital home, and obligees often need help paying the mortgage and other housing-related bills. If a child is disabled, the child’s disability may make it impossible for the obligee to become economically self-sufficient.
Other factors include the standard of living during the marriage, non-marital property awards, and the length of the marriage.
Another factor, the income tax consequences, changed significantly in 2017. As of 2018, alimony payments are not tax deductible, and obligors don’t have to pay taxes on these payments.
The judge may award temporary or permanent alimony. Temporary alimony helps obligees meet divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees and property deposits. Permanent alimony usually means extended temporary alimony. Judges usually include a cut-off date for permanent alimony payments.
The amount and duration of payments are based on the emotional and financial circumstances at the time of the order. These circumstances change, which means the amount and duration of payments could change as well.
Emotionally, the obligee’s remarriage usually terminates spousal support payments as a matter of law. An obligor may also ask a judge to terminate alimony payments if the obligee is in a marriage-type relationship. Some factors to consider include the length of that relationship and any shared financial matters, like a joint checking account or a large joint purchase.
Financially, most people change jobs every few years. These job changes often involve income changes. If either the obligor or the obligee makes substantially less or more money, a judge could modify the amount of payments accordingly. As a rule of thumb, a 10 percent income change is a substantial change.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Gwinnett County Attorney
Alimony laws in Georgia are quite subjective. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Lawrenceville, contact Lankford & Moore Law. After-hours, home, and virtual visits are available.