Alimony is the award of money from one spouse to the other that arises from the marital relationship between the parties. Only parties who are married may be awarded alimony from the other. Parties who lived like they were married, and shared everything do not qualify. You must first be married.
In awarding the alimony the relevant statute lists the following criteria for the court to utilize in determining the amount of alimony to award:
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties.
- The financial resources of each party.
- Where applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him to find appropriate employment.
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
- The condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties.
- Such other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper.
- All obligations for permanent alimony, however created, the time for performance of which has not arrived, shall terminate upon remarriage of the party to whom the obligations are owed unless otherwise provided.
These are all elements that we argue to the court when it comes to an alimony case. In practical terms, in the modern age, alimony is usually awarded on a temporary basis and not on a lifetime basis. The award of alimony is usually based on the need to support the other spouse after a divorce while that spouse is given time to find a job, or complete education necessary to enable that spouse to obtain a self-supporting job.
This is based upon the fact that the marriage is a partnership and that in many marriages one partner sacrifices his or her career opportunities and education in order to support the other spouses career and education. If the parties subsequently divorce then the spouse who sacrificed their career and education is at a distinct disadvantage financially going forward and should essentially get something out of her investment in the other spouse’s career and education that she helped to support. It will never be legally stated that way, but that is the general gist behind the award of alimony in most modern cases. A more commonly understood term for this is “rehabilitative” alimony, so as to financially rehabilitate a spouse and give them a chance to become self-supporting.
What this means is if you are the non-working spouse is that you need to come up with a plan to become self-supporting over time. The court will not usually be unreasonable, but in most marriages a period of 4-5 years is often considered sufficient as this enables the party to get a 4 year degree, and time to establish themselves in the job market for example. With younger people and with shorter term marriages even this period of time may be more than what is likely to be awarded as alimony, if any alimony is awarded at all. An award of alimony is not made in every case and it does vary case by case. Please consult an experienced attorney about your specific case and what to expect.
Sometimes, however, alimony is awarded beyond rehabilitative alimony and is based upon longer term issues. Not every spouse is at a stage in life where they will be able to start a new or become independent from their spouse financially. In such cases alimony can be awarded for much longer periods of time, it can even be made permanent. Cases like this usually involve older people and longer term marriages.
Any case involving alimony will usually be fought hard as there is a lot of money at stake and sometimes it is just the principal of the thing for the other party, so planning for and preparing such a case is important if you are trying to get alimony.
Defending against alimony claims is largely the reverse of trying to get alimony. The gist is taking into account the statutory criteria above, and presenting a meticulous case as to why alimony should not be granted or why it should be minimized. In some cases some alimony will need to be paid, but minimizing the amount of alimony paid and the duration of alimony is the goal. In other cases it can be argued that it is preposterous to pay any alimony at all. Again, it is case specific.
Adultery plays a large role in alimony cases. If you can prove that the cause of your marital break-up is your spouse’s adulterous affair, then that spouse is not entitled to any award of alimony at all. On the other hand, if your spouse has broken up the marriage because of an adulterous affair you may be able to argue that you should get some alimony (where otherwise alimony would not be awarded) or more alimony then what alimony would otherwise have been awarded. It also makes for good leverage in settlement talks.
I have argued many alimony cases on both sides very successfully. Arguing alimony takes meticulous preparation and presentation at court, and is usually a hotly contested issue.
On occasions alimony can be used for odder situations to create an equitable result. For example in one case I tried my client paid for his wife’s MBA education, only to have his wife file for divorce 2 weeks after he paid her final MBA tuition payment. It was not fair and equitable for my client to get nothing out of this investment so we asked for an award of alimony from the wife, although the wife made less money that the husband in that case. These cases are rare, but alimony has aspects to it that can sometimes be creatively utilized.
Alimony also has tax consequences. The payor of alimony may usually exclude alimony from his or her income, and the recipient of alimony usually must report alimony they receive as taxable income and pay taxes on the amounts of alimony received. These tax consequences can be varied by agreement, but if they are not modified please be sure that you are aware of these tax consequences as to the award of alimony.
Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.
Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.