A marital breakdown comes with a lot of strife in every area of your life, including your finances and emotions. Many couples find that the split is truly necessary because the pain of staying in an unhappy marriage eclipses the agony of leaving.
If you are currently going through a divorce, you already know the sort of chaos it can bring. But unfortunately, it is possible for things to get worse when you introduce alimony into the equation.
Very few spouses relish the idea of paying alimony to their former partners, even if it is only temporary. They may feel resentful or angry about parting with their own hard-earned cash to support someone that they are no longer married to.
On the other hand, receiving spouses might feel entitled to that money, due to their hard work and sacrifice over the years. Despite having a significant financial need, they might also resent being financially dependent on a former partner.
Alimony comes with a lot of tense emotions, which can create a highly charged situation.
You can defuse some of your anxiety by arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible about alimony in Georgia. In this comprehensive guide to alimony in Georgia, find out more about who qualifies for alimony, how the amount is determined, and how long your payments could last.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is a payment that one spouse makes to another after a divorce is finalized. In some situations, you may hear a payment referred to as alimony pendente lite, which means that the payments will be issued throughout the divorce process.
Following the breakdown of the marriage and union, these funds are designed to help provide financial support for a disadvantaged spouse. This situation could be necessary if one spouse was a stay-at-home parent, or he or she sacrificed a career to help his or spouse. In many situations, a court may elect to order alimony payments.
In the state of Georgia, there are two types of alimony payments that you might be eligible for. Rehabilitative alimony is far more common than permanent alimony because it lasts for a shorter period of time. It is generally issued to give one spouse financial breathing room while he or she searches for a job, goes back to school, or attends further training in his or her current field. This money allows spouses to take their time finding well-paying positions that can support them in the long run.
Permanent alimony is rarely issued during a divorce proceeding. Some people may refer to their alimony as permanent, even if it is not. You are not likely to see this type of alimony unless one spouse is too advanced in age to return to work, or is disabled in some way. In all other circumstances, Georgia typically limits alimony to rehabilitative payments within a specific period of time.
Who Qualifies for Alimony?
Determining who qualifies for alimony is a little tricky. Each judge will ultimately make his or her own determination. Before issuing a final decision, judges review all of the pertinent details about your marriage and the pending divorce. This process is designed to give them clearer pictures of the financial need and justification for ordering alimony payments.
There are several factors that judges keep in mind when attempting to reach a conclusion about the necessity of alimony payments.
The Income and Earning Potential of Both Spouses
The best way to determine if alimony is necessary is to examine the income of both spouses. Judges are not apt to order alimony payments if there is not a financial need for one spouse to receive them. Similarly, they cannot order alimony payments to be made if the money for them simply does not exist. When determining who qualifies for alimony, the first step is to look at whether there is enough money for everyone involved.
The court must also determine whether each spouse is working up to his or her real earning potential. Some spouses will take lower-paying positions or jobs that are outside their respective fields, in order to justify lower incomes. They believe that this tactic could absolve them of their responsibility for making alimony payments during the divorce proceedings.
However, a judge can order an evaluation of your earning potential, in order to determine if you are trying to skirt your responsibilities.
The Training and Education of Both Spouses
As part of the evaluation, the judge will look at the training and education that each spouse has that would qualify him or her for certain positions. This appraisal can help determine what your real earning potential is, and how much you should be able to pay in alimony. The judge may also consider whether one spouse supported the other while going to school or working up the corporate ladder.
At this point, many spouses prove that they do not currently have the skills necessary to obtain well-paying positions. You might be able to win rehabilitative alimony if you can prove that your education and training are outdated due to sacrifices you made throughout the marriage. By receiving financial support while you head back to school, you can further your own career and set yourself up for future financial success.
Age and Health of Both Spouses
As you become more advanced in years, it can be increasingly difficult to return to work with limited skills. An older spouse who is going through a gray divorce might have an easier time receiving permanent alimony if he or she has no skills to obtain a well-paying job, and is considered to be too advanced in age to return to school for more training.
In a similar vein, spouses that have poor health or struggle with a disability may be entitled to financial support from their former spouses. This disability could be physical, mental, or emotional, but to qualify, it must render them unable to earn a living on their own.
Marital Standard of Living
Judges will also consider the ways that each couple lived throughout their marriages. This standard can include the type of house they lived in, the vacations they took, and even the restaurants they ate in.
Based on this standard of living, judges try to ensure that each person can maintain a similar standard of living after the divorce is finalized. Therefore, alimony is one way to ensure that life remains mostly the same for both spouses.
Length of the Marriage
In Georgia, there is no standard answer for how long a marriage must last, in order to qualify for alimony payments. However, most judges prefer to see that the marriage lasted for a while before they are willing to issue alimony payments. Shorter marriages may not qualify for long-term alimony payments. If your marriage only lasted for a few years, the alimony you receive is bound to be rehabilitative.
Contributions of Each Spouse
Each spouse makes certain contributions to the household during the course of a marriage. For example, one spouse might head to work each day and make a hefty financial contribution to the family.
However, the other spouse is staying at home to take care of the children and the house, thereby enabling the first spouse to pursue his or her career. Both are significant contributions that should be considered by the judge as worthwhile endeavors that influenced the overall success of the marriage.
Unfortunately, when it comes to a divorce, some contributions do put one spouse at a significant financial disadvantage. The spouse who stayed home often sacrificed his or her own career to help turn the other partner’s dreams into a reality. This sacrifice may entitle the stay-at-home spouse to receive rehabilitative alimony while he or she begins rebuilding a self-sufficient life.
Georgia will also consider whether one spouse had bad behavior (such as abuse, abandonment, or adultery), which contributed to the divorce. This factor particularly applies to spouses who are requesting alimony payments. Therefore, a spouse who requests alimony will not be eligible for alimony if he or she is found guilty of this kind of marital misconduct.
Keep in mind that if you want to deny your spouse alimony payments due to misconduct, you will have to present detailed proof that it is true. Be prepared to have emotional conversations about painful topics. We advise seeking the help of a professional therapist or counselor, who can help you sort through these difficult emotions, prior to speaking about them in court.
How Much Are Alimony Payments?
Unfortunately, Georgia does not have a set formula for determining the number of alimony payments. Judges make determinations based on all of the factors above, particularly when it comes to financial need.
Keep in mind that some potential tax issues related to alimony payments. The receiving spouse must list his or her alimony payments as taxable income. This small shift could theoretically boost spouses into higher tax brackets and raise their overall tax liabilities. This boost could negate some of the money that you will receive through these payments. Judges often keep this information in mind when determining the final amount of alimony they will order.
However, alimony payments can be tax-deductible for paying spouses, which can potentially place them in lower tax brackets. This impact can offset the cost of making alimony payments because it decreases your overall tax bill for the entire year.
When Do Alimony Payments End?
Sometimes, your court order will list a specific termination date for rehabilitative alimony. If not, you may be able to modify the agreement whenever significant changes occur for either spouse. These changes can include the gain or loss of a job or any major changes in income. These changes can be significant because they can alter the financial need or the ability to pay.
Alimony payments will automatically end whenever the receiving spouse remarries. However, the alimony payments may be able to be modified or canceled whenever your former spouse moves in with a new partner.
Preparing Yourself for Alimony Discussions
Negotiating alimony payments can be a stressful, emotionally charged circumstance for all parties involved. Both spouses should have a good idea of what the court expects from each of you. In Georgia, alimony payments are highly subject to the judge’s discretion. You should provide your divorce attorney with all relevant information that could influence the judge’s decision.
Knowing what to expect from the process can make the entire divorce feel a little easier. Take control of the situation, and make sure that you prepare for your future. When you start making advance preparations to deal with your alimony payments, you will have a more secure financial foundation.