Spousal support is like a safety net. It is more expensive to maintain two households than it is to maintain one, and, many times, one spouse has spent the majority of their time concentrating on keeping house and raising children. The safety net can support one spouse while the divorce is pending, and after the marriage has been terminated. Determining whether spousal support is warranted, and if so, the proper amount can be very tricky. It is always advisable to consult an experienced Columbus, Georgia family law attorney, especially if your spouse is represented.
Calculating the Correct Amount of Spousal Support in Georgia
Calculating the proper amount of spousal support is much more complicated than simply plugging each party’s income into a predetermined formula. Each case is unique, and many factors are taken into consideration when determining whether spousal support should be awarded, and how much should be paid.
Georgia spousal support laws do not provide guidance on what amount of support is appropriate for the parties’ income levels, but they do specify the factors that should be considered by a judge when making a decision about support. A judge should consider:
- The length of the marriage.
- The age and physical and mental health of the parties.
- The income of each party, including earned income, investment income, pensions, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation payments, and Social Security payments.
- Other financial resources available to each party.
- The standard of living of the family during the marriage.
How Does Fault Affect Spousal Support?
Temporary, or pendente lite support, is not affected by the fault of either party for the break-up of the marriage. A spouse who is found guilty of any of Georgia’s fault-based grounds for divorce will not be eligible for any support after a final decree of divorce is entered. Some of these grounds for divorce are:
- Cruel treatment.
- Habitual intoxication, including both drug and alcohol abuse.
- Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, with a sentence of two years or more in prison.
- Fraud in obtaining the marriage.
- Pregnancy of the wife by someone other than her husband at the time of the marriage, and without the husband’s knowledge.
Types of Spousal Support In Georgia
While a divorce action is pending, a court may award pendente lite support to the lower-earning spouse. Only the financial positions of the parties is considered in determining whether pendente lite support will be awarded, and, if so, the amount to be paid. A pendente lite order may also include which party will live in the marital home while the case is pending. And which party will pay joint debts? The pendente lite order lasts only as long as the case is pending, and is replaced by the final decree of divorce.
A final decree of divorce may include an award of rehabilitative or permanent spousal support.
Their education gets a job, or until the marital home is sold. the transition after the marriage ends. Rehabilitative support may be one lump sum payment, or periodic payments, lasting for months or years after the divorce becomes final. The spouse receiving rehabilitative support may pursue an education or job training in order to prepare to become financially independent.
Permanent spousal support, once common when most households consisted of a one spouse who worked and one who took care of the household, is now fairly rare. Courts are more likely to award permanent support when the parties have been married for many years, and when one party’s earning capacity is limited due to age or length of time away from the job market.
How Long Does Georgia Spousal Support last?
A Columbus, Georgia order of rehabilitative support usually lasts for several months or years re a divorce becomes final. An order may last until one party completes their education or job training.
Permanent spousal support usually lasts until either party dies, or until the receiving party remarries, or cohabits in a marital relationship with another person.
If the parties reconcile, a previously entered support order may be nullified.
How Can Spousal Support Be Modified in Georgia?
An order of spousal support from a Georgia court may be modified by a petition filed by either party. The party desiring to modify the support order must prove that circumstances have changed since the original order was entered.
Frequently Asked Questions about Alimony in Georgia
May a spouse be reimbursed for financial contributions during the marriage?
Yes, if one spouse pays for the other’s education, he/she may ask to be reimbursed. Non-financial contributions to the education or career may also be considered when determining an award of spousal support or division of property.
May I collect back pay?
A temporary support obligation is usually deemed to begin on the date of separation. By the time a temporary support order is entered, weeks or even months may have passed, and the order may contain a provision for a lump sum payment, or higher monthly payments until the arrearage is paid.
How are support orders enforced in Georgia?
Spousal support orders may be enforced by wage garnishment, seizure of federal and state income tax refunds, suspension of driver’s licenses and professional licenses, liens against property, and by fines and even jail time.
Do I need an attorney to collect spousal support?
You should consult an experienced Columbus, Georgia family law attorney when:
- You are unsure of the proper amount of support you should be paying or receiving.
- Your spouse is refusing to pay court-ordered support payments.
- Your primary contribution to your marriage was maintaining a household, raising children, or supporting your spouse’s career.
- You believe your spouse is hiding income or assets in order to avoid paying spousal support, or in an attempt to collect support.
A Columbus, Georgia Family Law Attorney Can Help
The intense emotions involved in a divorce can make it difficult to negotiate issues like property division and support. You may make concessions that are not in your best interests, or fail to recognize when you spouse is negotiating unfairly. An attorney can step in for you and handle the negotiations, either with your spouse or with your spouse’s attorney, making the process much less stressful, and increasing your chances of getting a fair and just settlement.
If negotiations fail, your attorney will be ready with the evidence necessary to present your case. An experienced family law attorney can help calculate the proper amount of spousal support for your unique set of circumstances and can help uncover assets or income your spouse may be hiding. If your spouse fails to pay court-ordered support, an attorney can help you file the necessary petition for contempt of court, and follow through with collection efforts after a judgment is entered.