A spouse may be entitled to an award of support when she/he earns substantially less than the other spouse and demonstrates a need for that support. Many factors will be applied to whether she/he is entitled to support, the amount of that support, and the duration of support. However, a spouse may not be entitled to support if the separation of the parties was caused by the adultery or desertion of the spouse, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-4. The main factors to be applied include the needs of the spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay support, and to some degree the conduct of the parties toward each other.
If there is a finding that a spouse is entitled to support, the court will look to factors specified by statute, O.C.G.A. § 19-6-5.
(a) The finder of fact may grant permanent alimony to either party, either from the corpus of the estate or otherwise. The following shall be considered in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded:
- 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; and
- Such other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper.
(b) 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.
Unlike child support, there is no formula for making the determination of the amount of alimony nor its duration. Alimony can take many different forms, such as a lump sum award of property, other assets, or simply cash. Periodic alimony is payable in installments, such as weekly, monthly, quarterly or even annually. Typically, alimony ceases upon the death of a spouse or the remarriage of the recipient spouse unless otherwise specified. Alimony can be modified or even eliminated on the basis that the spouse is openly and notoriously residing with a third party in a meretricious relationship. However, lump sum alimony is not affected by these considerations.
It is extremely important that a spouse be prepared to discuss the financial circumstances of the parties and family, which can best be done by supplying a form known as a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit, probably the most vital document in divorce proceedings. While this form may vary in different courts, it deals with the income of the spouse, the assets and debts of the parties as well as the budgetary needs of the spouse which could include the children’s needs where she/he is seeking custody.