Questions about Atlanta alimony:
In most Georgia divorce cases, both Husband and Wife have questions about alimony:
- Who pays alimony and under what circumstances?
- How much alimony will I have to pay?
- How much alimony can I get?
- How long will I have to pay?
- Is alimony tax deductible?
- How often do men receive alimony?
Does it matter if I live in Fulton, Cobb or DeKalb County?
Hindson & Melton LLC represents clients in divorce courts in north metro Atlanta. Most of our divorce clients reside in Fulton County, DeKalb County, Cobb County, Forsyth County, or Gwinnett County. While there are some differences in procedure in the various counties, alimony laws are the same throughout the state of Georgia.
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What does Georgia law say about alimony?
Georgia laws specifically address alimony. Alimony is support paid when the parties are living apart, and it can be either temporary or permanent. Here is the current Georgia alimony law:
“O.C.G.A. 19-6-1. Alimony defined; permanent and temporary
(a) Alimony is an allowance out of one party’s estate, made for the support of the other party when living separately. It is either temporary or permanent.
(b) A party shall not be entitled to alimony if it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the separation between the parties was caused by that party’s adultery or desertion. In all cases in which alimony is sought, the court shall receive evidence of the factual cause of the separation even though one or both of the parties may also seek a divorce, regardless of the grounds upon which a divorce is sought or granted by the court.
(c) In all other cases in which alimony is sought, alimony is authorized, but is not required, to be awarded to either party in accordance with the needs of the party and the ability of the other party to pay. In determining whether or not to grant alimony, the court shall consider evidence of the conduct of each party toward the other.
(d) Should either party die prior to the court’s order on the issue of alimony, any rights of the other party to alimony shall survive and be a lien upon the estate of the deceased party.
(e) Pending final determination by the court of the right of either party to alimony, neither party shall make any substantial change in the assets of the party’s estate except in the course of ordinary business affairs and except for bona fide transfers for value.”
No adultery and no desertion!
Sometimes the behavior of a divorcing party can affect his or her right to receive alimony. Being guilty of adultery or deserting the other party can result in the court denying alimony. Some clients use private investigators to obtain evidence of adultery to avoid paying alimony. If you have questions about what constitutes desertion, we can help advise you based on the facts of your situation.
How is alimony decided?
Alimony is based on the needs of the party and the ability of the other party to pay. The conduct of the parties toward each other also must be considered by the court in making a decision of whether to award alimony. Some parties simply do not deserve alimony. Alimony can be ordered for either the Wife or the Husband, depending on the case.
Factors to consider in alimony amount:
Georgia laws O.C.G.A. 19-6-5 includes criteria for alimony.
“The following shall be considered in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded:
(1) The standard of living established during the marriage;
(2) The duration of the marriage;
(3) The age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties;
(4) The financial resources of each party;
(5) Where applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him to find appropriate employment;
(6) 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;
(7) The condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties; and
(8) Such other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper.”
Alimony stops upon remarriage
Generally, alimony terminates upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. There can be exceptions, most often if the parties agree to something different in a settlement agreement.
Alimony and income tax
Alimony is generally tax deductible to the payor of alimony, and taxable income to the recipient of alimony. This is often used to the client’s advantage when negotiating a settlement where tax considerations are important.
Many years ago, divorced women frequently received alimony for their lifetimes if they did not remarry. That is no longer the case. Most Atlanta area judges believe that able-bodied adults should be required to contribute to their own support. The number of years of the marriage, the age of the parties, the education of the parties, and the relative employment qualifications of the parties certainly matter. But the bottom line is that alimony is rarely sufficient to provide 100% of your support. If you are getting a divorce, even a divorce that you do not want, you need to be considering what you can do to support yourself.
Men and alimony
Many lawyers believe there is still an inherent gender bias when it comes to alimony, and that a man is less likely to receive alimony than a woman in similar circumstances. An experienced trial attorney can make the case for the man to receive alimony if the facts are right and the man is deserving of support, just like the same attorney could advocate for the woman. While some attorneys advertise that they represent only men or advocate for father’s rights, this is often just a marketing gimmick for lawyers. A judge would rather hear the facts about your marriage than hear from a lawyer who has a known agenda. A lawyer’s credibility with judges can be tainted if the lawyer always advocates for custody, alimony, or any other issue based primarily on gender.
Some men say they deserve alimony and have been stay-at-home-dads when in fact they are just lazy and not inclined to work. Investigation into the facts might reveal that not only has the Wife been earning most of the income, she has also been taking care of the children and the household.
The history and facts of your marriage make a real difference in determining whether alimony is appropriate and if so, how much and for how long. While it is true that the individual biases of the attorneys and judges involved in the case can make a difference, most well-qualified lawyers can present a good case if the facts are there.
Alimony terms as part of Settlement Agreements
Most Atlanta area divorce cases are resolved by settlement agreement. Trials are very expensive, and a trial can be emotionally damaging to parties and their children. In some divorce cases, settlement is reached before the divorce is even filed. Others are settled shortly after filing, as a result of negotiations. Most of the remaining cases are settled at mediation or during the months of discovery and trial preparation. Parties soon realize that the cost of litigating is using family resources that could be saved for the children’s education or the future financial security of the parties.
As part of a settlement, many parties will agree to temporary alimony to be paid in a certain amount for a certain period of time. The terms are negotiated between the parties, and the judge approves the settlement agreement as part of the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce, incorporating the terms of the settlement agreement by reference into the decree. That makes the terms of the Settlement Agreement more than just a contract between the parties, it becomes court-ordered and enforceable by “contempt of court”. Sometimes the parties agree to terms that would not normally be ordered by the judge if a hearing was held — but if you make such an agreement, you will almost certainly be required to live up to your agreement. So the terms of your Settlement Agreement really matter. An experienced law firm such as Hindson & Melton LLC can help you negotiate favorable terms or, if necessary, present your best case at trial. Whether you are wanting to receive alimony or are concerned about paying alimony, we are here for you.
Hindson & Melton LLC’s Perimeter Center office is conveniently located to our Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Roswell, Marietta, and Alpharetta clients. Contact Karen Hindson or Joy Melton today.