Spousal support, also called alimony, is the right of one spouse to receive money from another spouse. When a divorcing couple cannot agree on spousal support, a Georgia family court judge will decide. Family courts can award alimony on a permanent or temporary basis when the court determines that the facts warrant spousal support. Those who are considering divorce should consider whether they will negotiate to receive payments. Or, you may be in the position of negotiating against paying alimony.
Whatever position you find yourself regarding alimony, it is important to speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. We recommend speaking to an experienced Atlanta family law lawyer before agreeing to accept or pay a certain amount of payments. At Carter/Pilgrim, we have extensive experience in family law issues, including alimony or spousal support. If you are facing a divorce and need to request a modification of spousal support, our law firm can help. Contact Carter/Pilgrim as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.
Understanding Georgia Alimony Laws
Georgia laws refer to spousal support as alimony. Nobody in Georgia is entitled to receive spousal support by merely having been married. Georgia courts have the authority to grant support to one spouse from the assets or income of the other spouse during the divorce process or after the process. Courts can award lump sum payments or periodic payments. In some cases, Georgia courts award temporary alimony to allow one spouse to maintain his or her lifestyle until the divorce becomes formalized.
Alimony and Uncontested Divorce
Georgia family court judges do not always determine how much support one spouse must pay. When both parties work together and agree to the terms of their uncontested divorce, they determine whether one spouse will pay alimony and the terms of the payments. Spouses can structure their payments nearly any way they see fit. They may agree that one spouse will issue a lump sum payment, or that one party will make smaller payments over time.
If you are taking part in an uncontested divorce, hiring a family law attorney is just as important. Many people assume that they only need a lawyer if they are engaged in contentious legal disputes. On the contrary, an experienced family law lawyer can help you greatly through an uncontested divorce. If you are entitled to support, we will help you ensure that you receive enough support per the uncontested divorce. Conversely, if you will pay alimony, we can ensure that you are paying a fair amount. We can also help you negotiate a divorce agreement that protects your interest and is legally enforceable.
The Length of Alimony Payments
Alimony payments may end in the death or remarriage of the spouse who is receiving the support. Or, payments may end sooner according to the final divorce decree or alimony judgment. Courts can also award alimony temporarily while a divorce is pending. Judges have a significant amount of discretion when it comes to awarding alimony to a spouse.
Whether you are seeking alimony or seeking to avoid paying alimony, it’s important to discuss your case with a lawyer as soon as possible. It is always better to make your case thoroughly before a judge grants the award than to agree to an unfavorable amount of alimony and need to try to modify the payment later.
Guidelines for Awards in Georgia
There is no single formula for determining alimony. Instead, determinations are based on the determination of the judge, also known as the trier of fact. Some of the factors that judges may consider when determining if spousal support is appropriate to include the following:
- The standard of living that each spouse has become accustomed to during the marriage
- The financial status and income of each party
- The future earning capacity of each party
- The separate assets owned by each party
- Non-economic contributions by each spouse to the marriage
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage
- The time that the spouse receiving alimony needs to improve earning capacity
- The length of the marriage
- The amount of assets each spouse has allocated for retirement
- Any misconduct that caused the marriage to break down
Reasons the Court May Deny Spousal Maintenance
Even when a spouse may otherwise receive alimony, a court may deny his or her request. When the evidence shows that one of the spouses committed desertion or adultery, and caused the separation of the married spouses, a court can deny alimony. Judges have a large amount of discretion when it comes to alimony. Your family law attorney can help you develop a strategy.
Spousal Maintenance Modification in Georgia
Unless both parties agree to waive spousal maintenance modification, either party can petition the court to modify the amount. To modify an alimony agreement, you will need to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Modification of alimony in Georgia can only change the amount of periodic support, not the length of time it is paid. Either party has a right to request a jury hearing regarding a modification.
When a judge orders a lump sum payment, the paying party cannot request a modification of the payment. When the alimony award states that one party must pay alimony until the death or remarriage of the receiving spouse, a court can terminate the payments. However, the party who requests the modification has the burden of proving a modification is necessary. For example, the party paying the support needs to prove that their ex-spouse has remarried or is living in a meretricious relationship, even if the couple is not legally married.
Contact an Experienced Georgia Family Law Today
Alimony is only one part of a divorce, yet a disadvantageous judgment can have serious negative effects. The sooner you speak to an experienced family lawyer, the better. At Carter/Pilgrim, we have helped many clients through their divorce and spousal support matters. We’ve also helped many clients successfully petition the court for a modification. Contact our Atlanta law firm as soon as possible to learn how we advocate for your best interests.