Georgia Spousal Support Laws

Breaking up a family is difficult for all parties, emotionally and financially. Suddenly, there are two households to maintain instead of one. Two rent or mortgage payments, two sets of utility bills, and so on. When one partner has been financially dependent on the other, temporary or permanent spousal support, also known as alimony, may be necessary.

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Types of Georgia Spousal Support

carrollton ga alimony lawyer
Courts in Carrollton, Georgia can award alimony before the marriage is terminated, and after a final decree of divorce is entered.

Married couples in Carrollton, Georgia owe each other a duty to support each other. This duty continues until a final decree of divorce is entered by a court, and may, in some circumstances, continue after a divorce becomes final.

While a divorce case is pending, either party may ask a court to grant temporary, or pendente lite support. The higher-earning partner may be ordered to help support the lower-earning partner while the divorce is pending. In determining whether pendente lite support is appropriate, a court will consider the relative financial needs and assets of both parties, which party is caring for the children, which party has the ability to pay, and the parties’ standard of living during the marriage. The fault or lack of fault of either party for the break up of the marriage is not usually considered unless domestic abuse is involved.

After a divorce is final, a court may award rehabilitative support or permanent support. Rehabilitative support is meant to assist the lower-earning partner to become independent, while that party goes to school, trains for a new job look for a new job, or looks for affordable housing. This temporary safety net can allow you to get back on your feet after going through the difficult experience of terminating a marriage.

Permanent support is less common and may continue for years after a divorce, or until the receiving party dies or remarries.

Spousal support may be made in regular, usually monthly, payments, but may also be a one-time payment.

Calculating Support Payments In Georgia

Carrollton residents should consult an experienced family law attorney who can help determine a reasonable amount of support for each individual case. While Georgia statutes do not contain a table of guidelines for spousal support, as they do for child support, there is a list of factors that may be considered in determining whether support should be awarded and the proper amount.

The factors to consider are:

  • The income and earning capacity of each party, including the education level of each party and the amount of time it may take for one to complete education and/or training for employment.
  • The financial assets and liabilities of the parties.
  • The age and health of the parties.
  • The standard of living that the family enjoyed during the marriage.
  • The length of the marriage.
  • The contributions of each party to the marriage, including financial contributions, childcare, homemaking, and support of a spouse’s career.

Awarding Permanent Or Rehabilitative Support

Once a divorce decree is signed by a judge, pendente lite support terminates. Often, the parties, usually through their lawyers, are able to work out an agreement between themselves about rehabilitative or permanent support. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, a judge may make the decision.

A party who is found to be at fault for ending the marriage, usually by means of adultery, domestic violence, abandonment, is almost always ineligible for any spousal support after the marriage is legally terminated, regardless of the parties’ financial positions.

If the receiving party is not found to be at fault, or if neither party is found to be at fault, a judge may make an award of rehabilitative support that may last for months or years after the marriage ends. Permanent support is rarer today, and is usually only awarded in long marriages (over 10 years), and when one of the parties has devoted their efforts to child care and homemaking for the entirety of the marriage, or when one party is unable to work due to physical or mental disability. Age is also a factor in determining whether an award or permanent support is appropriate. The older a person is when the marriage ends, the less likely it is that the person will be able to complete the education or training necessary for a new job, especially of that person has been out of the job market for many years. In those cases, spousal support may be permanent and terminate only upon the death or remarriage of the receiving party.

Can Support Payments Be Modified?

Either party may request a modification of support payments but must show a change in circumstances that make the modification necessary. Some examples of a change in circumstances are:

  • A significant change in the financial position of either party.
  • Illness or disability of either party.
  • Loss of a job, a significant change in income, or completion of education.
  • The receiving party is cohabiting with another person in a marital-type relationship.

Important Information About Spousal Support

  • Name Changes: Spousal support will automatically terminate upon the remarriage of the receiving party, but a name change will not affect support.
  • Reconciliation: Reconciliation with your spouse may affect spousal support, but a lot of factors may come into play. Always consult a Georgia family law attorney if you and your spouse reconcile temporarily, before or after your divorce is final.
  • Back pay: Pendente Lite support can date back to the date of the parties’ separation. If it takes some time for a support order to be entered, back support may be owed.
  • Attorney’s fees: A deserving party should not be deprived of spousal support simply because they cannot afford to hire an attorney. In some cases, one party may be ordered to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney’s fees.
  • Enforcement: If a party falls behind in their court-ordered spousal support payments, there are options available for collection. Garnishment of wages, seizure of tax refund checks, fines, and even jail time are possible.

Consult A Carrollton, Georgia Family Law Attorney

An experienced Carrollton, Georgia family law attorney can help you determine the appropriate amount of spousal support for your family’s needs. An attorney can help uncover a spouses’ hidden assets and income.  Furthermore, he can take the necessary steps to enforce a spousal support order that already exists. If you have any questions about spousal support, seek the advice of a Carrollton family law attorney.

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