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alimony divorceBy Andrea Johnson

Cordell & Cordell Divorce Attorney

If you have been the primary financial provider for your family, it is possible that you will have to make alimony payments.  

In many states, there is no hard and fast method of calculating alimony payments. And to be quite frank, estimating what a judge may do is often fruitless. 

Because the laws of many states allow so much judicial discretion in calculating alimony, the methods and manners for determining whether alimony is appropriate and/or how much alimony should be paid may vary from court to court.

Learn Your State's
Alimony Laws

Let me provide you with a typical case study:

Husband and Wife met in college. Both graduated from college with bachelor’s degrees in accounting. They married after graduation when Husband was 23 and Wife was 22 years old. Both parties began working in accounting immediately after graduation. 

Wife stopped working at the birth of the parties’ first child and has been a stay at home mom since. Husband is now 35 years old and earns approximately $106,000.  Wife is 34 and stays at home with their two young children.

Question: Will Husband have to pay alimony? How much? For how long will have to pay?

Answer: Yes, Husband will likely have to pay alimony and the answers to the remaining questions may vary depending on a number of factors. 

The court will generally consider such factors as:

Marriage length: In cases where the parties have been married for less than five (5) years, it is unlikely that a court will award alimony on a final basis, at least in the state I practice in, Georgia. That does not, however, mean that there is an absolute rule that there is no alimony award for short marriages, nor does it mean that temporary alimony may not be awarded

Financial resources of each party: The court will consider whether Wife has financial resources other than Husband’s income with which to support herself.  For example, if Husband did provide the financial support for the family, but Wife had a $2 million savings account that had not been touched during the course of the marriage, the court may not choose to award alimony to Wife because she has resources off of which she may support herself until she acclimates herself into the workforce.

Time needed to acquire training or education to re-enter the workforce: The court definitely contemplates how long it will take Wife to get herself into the work force. In the scenario mentioned, Wife earned a bachelor’s degree and gained some work experience. However, it has been many since she was last employed. 

In today’s economy, it is extremely difficult to find work, even when your most recent experience was just a few months ago. The courts do recognize the difficulty in obtaining work and will contemplate this in alimony awards. 

A high unemployment rate makes it undeniable that getting work is difficult. Plus, the high unemployment rate does not include people like Wife, who are voluntarily not working. This number is the percentage of people who are looking for work and cannot find it.  The court will likely allow somewhere between three and seven years of alimony payments in the scenario above.

Each spouse's earning capacity: In the scenario above, Wife has the ability earn at the rate of a professional. She has a bachelor’s degree and some work experience. She, however, certainly does not have the earning capacity of Husband given that Husband is currently in the work force and has been for many years. 

Some judges will equalize the parties’ income (before the consideration of child support) and then allow for a drop down of the support after time periods allowing for Wife to re-establish herself into the workforce.

Contributions to the marriage: The courts definitely consider a stay at home spouse’s work toward supporting the house.

A court can order temporary alimony while the divorce is pending. Most alimony is ordered for a specific length of time. Though conduct can bar permanent alimony, it is possible for the court to enter an award for temporary alimony, even when conduct may otherwise not order it on a permanent basis.

So if you have been the primary provider for your spouse and children and your spouse is not able to support herself, you probably will have to pay some form of spousal support.

Cordell & Cordell:
Divorce Attorneys For Men

Georgia divorce lawyer Andrea JohnsonAndrea M. Johnson is a Senior Attorney in the Atlanta, Georgia office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Johnson is licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia. Ms. Johnson was born in the metro-Atlanta area and has spent most of her life in Georgia. She received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia in 1998. Ms. Johnson received her Juris Doctor from Mercer University School of Law in 2002.  Since graduating from law school, Ms. Johnson has practiced in the area of family law. Additionally, she has worked in general civil practice, immigration, and estate planning. Ms. Johnson has briefed two cases successfully before the Georgia Court of Appeals, one of which was a modification of custody action.

Comments (10)Add Comment
Alimony and remarriage
written by Sam, May 24, 2012
If I got remarried would my ex be able to increase my alimony based on what my husband contributes to our household combined income?
How Remarriage Affects Alimony and Child Support
written by DadsDivorce admin, May 30, 2012
Income from a new spouse is not considered because a new spouse does not have a legal duty to support the child, but it may be considered indirectly, according to Cordell & Cordell attorney Jennifer Paine.

For example, a new spouse may assume payments for the ex’s debts, thereby freeing the ex’s previously devoted resources for child support.
Alimony in Nevada
written by Mark, February 13, 2014
I been married for 5 years during this time my wife have moved out several times we are getting divorce I don't have a lawyer she does she worked all while we was married and she just quit her job a few weeks ago and now her lawyer is asking for the last pass 5 years of all my income bank pension etc. will I have to pay her alimony.
Alimony in Kansas
written by J in Kansas, June 20, 2014
My wife worked for 20 years with the government and was terminated due to unprofessional conduct. She has become a drug addict and alcoholic and would stop going to work and finally even the government had enough and fired her. I earned about 15-20K more than she did the last 5 years and now she earns nothing and was denied unemployment because of all the reasons she was fired. She has been in and out of rehab and now I am divorcing her. I am paying the house payment and all the bills now by myself and she does nothing to contribute and has not moved out but has not lived here for 2 months. We have a 14yo daughter together that I pay for all cost of school, sports, etc. Will I have to pay Alimony? I am trying to get full custody and asking for Child Support during the course of the divorce. Everything is well documented and I have all the paperwork about her job.


Alimony in iowa
written by Christy , July 05, 2014
i have been married for 17 years and im trying to go through a divorce. my husband is a RN and i'm a stay at home mom and have had off and on jobs for the whole time we were married. i stayed at home with the kids til my youngest went to school full time as in going from half a day pre k to a full day Kindergarden. Will my husband have to pay me alimony? and if so, for how long?

Alimony and child support in GA
written by Stay at home mom, July 09, 2014
My husband and I have been married for 3 years now, been together a total of nearly 7 years. We have a 2 & 1/2 year old daughter. I'm a stay at home mom and home maker. My husband works out of state 3 months at a time and only home for a week or two then back out of town. He makes roughly $5,000 a month. He says he just doesn't want to be married anymore, I'm assuming he wants to just be free to do whatever he wants to do. I'm trying very hard to make our marriage work, but I'm not sure it will work out if he has his mind set. My question is how much in child support will he owe me per month? Also we do t own a home we rent, and I really don't have anywhere to go, no job, it will take me some time to find work and when I do I'll have to do childcare. Will he have to pay me alimony and about how much?
Stay at home dad
written by Father, July 24, 2014
I have been a stay at home father for 4 years and also have a health problem. Can I get alimony ? I live in Tennessee plus my wife makes 85k a year and i make 0 income. Will I have to pay child support?
living in truck
written by soulstogo, September 18, 2014
Judge granted my ex temporary spousal support of 1000 even though i only take home 3000 a month, I lost my apartment because i could not afford it and now living in my truck because i cant afford another apartment. What options do i have? She had a job but quit while we were going through the divorce
written by mike, October 07, 2014
I have 2 kids, 11 and 14 from a prev marriage where the 1st wife has moved overseas and we never hear from her. My 2nd wife now has moved out after 3 years and wants to sue me for Alimony. She works under the table cleaning homes. She wanted me to sign for her citizenship and I didn't have the money and so she got mad and moved out. So I know where her heart really was, but do I still pay alimony even though im supporting my 2 kids and working 2 jobs?
cont'd from above..
written by mike, October 07, 2014
Mike- we live in Arkansas. And what happened was she cried that she wanted to go overseas to see her family, so I gave her $3200, she came back complaining about her citizenhip needed to get paid for $900, I told her I didn't have the money till after the new year, she got mad and just left without me knowing, until someone from church told me they helped her move out. I wonder what lies she told them about me, oh well. the kids didn't like her anyway and I was tired of her telling me how my kids are stupid idiots...Even though there "A" students in school..hmmm. really, "idiots" whatever, me and them know dif't. anyway, used? I feel it!! my 1st wife left after 10 years, and then abandoned us, filed for divorce and said "I don't want the kids! " and left. shock? Id say. there is a video of this, my lawyer was shocked so was the judge.

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