The break- up of a marriage can be both devastating for a family, both emotionally and financially. In many households, one spouse contributes more to the family financially, while the other contributes more to child care and maintaining the household. In others, both parties share financial responsibilities equally. Spousal support is awarded when one partner earns significantly less than the other and can be a safety net during the transition period from one household to two.
Types of Spousal Support In Georgia
Courts in LaGrange, Georgia can award spousal support before the marriage is terminated, and after a final decree of divorce is entered. Because a divorce action may take several months or even longer complete, either spouse may petition the court for an award of temporary support.
Temporary support is intended to give the lower-earning spouse some financial assistance while a divorce action is pending. Also called a pendente lite order, a temporary order of support may also include temporary child support, temporary custody, and visitation arrangements, and orders for temporary possession of the marital property, particularly the marital home. An order of temporary support lasts until a final decree of divorce is entered, until the parties reach an agreement between them regarding support, or until the parties reconcile.
A temporary support order may also be dated back to the date of the parties’ separation, creating an arrearage. The “back pay” may be paid in one lump sum, or the regular monthly payment amount may be increased until the arrearage has been covered.
After a divorce is final, a court may order rehabilitative or permanent support. Rehabilitative support may be a lump sum payment, or maybe an award of periodic payments, intended to help one spouse obtain education or job training, or to seek employment and permanent housing. Temporary support may be awarded while the sale of the marital home is pending. Temporary support may last as long as the court determines it is necessary to allow the lower-earning spouse to get back on their feet.
Permanent support is less common today, but may still be awarded in certain circumstances. These might include:
- The marriage lasted a long time (over ten years).
- One party provided most or all of the family’s financial support.
- One party devoted their efforts to maintaining the marital home and caring for children.
- One party has been out of the workforce for an extended period of time, or has never worked outside of the home.
- Physical or mental disability keeps one party from obtaining gainful employment.
Permanent support will terminate upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the receiving party.
Calculating Spousal Support In Lagrange, Georgia
When considering whether an award of temporary or permanent support is appropriate, and the amount of an award, a judge will consider many factors:
The income of each party. Income includes wages and bonuses, self-employment income, investment income, unemployment and worker’s compensation payments, pension income, and Social Security benefits.
The financial resources of each party, including stock accounts, bank accounts, real estate, and other property.
The parties’ expenses, especially if one party is making mortgage payments, utility payments, or repairs to the marital home.
The age, health, and education level of the parties.
The earning capacity of each party, including potential future earning capacity.
What If My Spouse Has Committed Adultery?
The fault is not an issue in making an award of temporary support while a divorce action is pending, although cohabitation with another person may be a factor that affects the spouse’s financial condition.
When considering an award of rehabilitative or permanent support in after a final decree of divorce is entered, a finding of fault will almost always make a party ineligible to receive spousal support, regardless of the relative financial positions of the parties. A finding of fault means that a spouse has been found to be guilty of any of the fault-based grounds of divorce in Georgia. These include:
- Fraud, misrepresentation, or duress in obtaining the marriage.
- The pregnancy of the wife by another person prior to the marriage, without the husband’s knowledge.
- Conviction of a come involving moral turpitude with a sentence of imprisonment for two years or more.
- Habitual drunkenness or drug use.
How Can I Enforce A Georgia Spousal Support Order?
If your spouse refuses to comply with court-ordered spousal support payments, you may petition the court for a judgment, and for an order of contempt. A person who has been found to be in contempt of court for failing to pay court-ordered spousal support may be subject to fines or imprisonment. Imprisonment may include a diversion program in which the responsible party is able to work while serving their sentence on weekends or nights. If the court grants a judgment against the responsible party, the amount owed may be collected by garnishing wages, placing liens on the property, and by the seizure of income tax return checks. A LaGrange family law attorney can help pursue all options for enforcing a support order.
How Can I Change A Georgia Spousal Support Order?
Either party may petition a court for a modification of a support order if their financial circumstances have changed. The paying party may request a reduction in the amount of support after a job loss, significant change in financial circumstances, or in the event of illness or disability that affects the ability to work. The receiving party may ask for an increase under the same circumstances. Anu substantial change in income or expenses by either party may warrant modification of a support order, but the court will not modify a previous order unless it is determined that the change of circumstances was not intentional.
Consult A LaGrange, Georgia Family Law Attorney
An experienced family law attorney can help you get the support you need to start over after your marriage ends. If you are seeking spousal support, you will want to make sure your spouse’s income is correctly calculated, and that all sources of income and assets are accounted for. Often, one spouse owns the property under the name of a corporation or LLC, without the knowledge of the other spouse. Uncovering hidden property and income sources are one of the services a family law attorney can provide. Uncovering evidence of adultery or other activity may also be necessary, and a family law attorney will be able to employ investigators who will work on your behalf.
Having an attorney on your side is especially important when your spouse has significantly greater income or financial resources. Even though it may seem impossible to afford an attorney, a judge may order your spouse to pay some or all of your attorney’s fees in some circumstances.