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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.

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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.

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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 (6)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 amounts
written by bob, June 29, 2013
Im from NC. Me and my wife have been married for 38 years. Kids are grown and out of the house. She still works, but I am retired. I still bring home more money than her. She is getting the farm that we live on because she inherited it from her family. Will I be required to pay alimony?
written by Peter Rye, July 08, 2013
I have been married for 7 months, and she is pregnant. She was fired from her job 2 months after we got married, and didn't go back to work. She has kicked me out of the house several times so for the 7 months we have been married we only lived together for maybe 5 at the most. Will I still have to pay her alimony
Alimony in North Carolina Jurisdiction
written by John, September 26, 2013
My wife left me a year and half ago and moved to another state taking my children. I'm finally financial able to start divorce procedures, Can she get alimony from me, even if she is the one that left and got engaged to another man 4 days after leaving me?
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.

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