Atlanta-Based Attorney at Law

Harmon Caldwell

“My goal in every case is to obtain the best possible result for the client.”

Harmon Caldwell has practiced divorce and family law in Atlanta for 41 years. He has been repeatedly recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in Georgia. He has handled over a thousand contested divorce cases, he has tried over a hundred and fifty jury cases in communities throughout the state, and he has been involved in more than 70 cases in the Georgia appellate courts.

5 Things You Need to Know About Alimony

Posted on June 26, 2015

This is part one of a two-part series on alimony. Part 2 will discuss factors that go into determining the amount of alimony awarded.

Alimony is payment from one spouse to support the other in event of a divorce. Back in the Leave It to Beaver days, when a typical family was considered to be working dad, mom at home and young children, divorce meant the wife needed some type of support from the husband so she could continue to eat. Options for a woman to support herself then were much more limited.

The typical family structure has changed drastically since then. Many more women are in the workforce, and awards of alimony have changed as well. You can no longer assume that a husband will be ordered to pay his ex-wife alimony should they divorce, whether she works or not. The wife may owe her husband, or alimony may not be awarded at all.

Here are five things you need to know about alimony.

  1. The amount of alimony is based upon two things: need and ability to pay.

The spouse requesting alimony must demonstrate both a need for the financial support and the other spouse’s ability to pay. If you are requesting alimony, you will need to demonstrate your sources of income and the amount needed to maintain an appropriate lifestyle for yourself after the divorce.

For ability to pay, you will need to have proof of your spouses’ income, including any bonuses, and other regular payments. The court will also consider your spouse’s lifestyle and whether alimony payments will cause a hardship for him or her.

  1. Alimony, spousal support and maintenance are the same and payments are taxable.

While you may hear all three of these terms used, they all mean the same thing – payments from one spouse to another.

If you receive child support, you do not pay taxes on that money. However, alimony is considered taxable income.

  1. Alimony is generally paid for a definite period of time.

Alimony is awarded for a specific period of time. For example, two years, five years or 10 years, whatever period is specified. Sometimes temporary alimony is awarded while the divorce is pending due to the time it can take for a divorce to become final and permanent alimony awarded. It rarely continues until remarriage, but ends upon death or remarriage unless there is an agreement that states otherwise.

Sometimes a spouse is awarded “rehabilitative alimony,” giving him or her time to do what is necessary to get back into the job market.

  1. The court tends to want to help people who want to help themselves.

I give the example in my book, Harmon Caldwell’s Georgia Divorce Handbook, of the stay-at-home wife of a successful businessman. They had been married for 25 years and the children are grown. The court may not look too kindly on her request if the wife goes to court asking for continued support while she continues to stay at home.

If, however, she has made an effort to find some type of employment, the court is much more likely to award her more alimony. The amount of income she receives is not as important as the fact that she made an effort and showed her willingness to work.

  1. Awards of alimony can vary widely by state.

While laws vary from state to state, the overall trend is to award less alimony and for a shorter period of time. Alimony reform is a hot topic in several states. For example in Florida, a statute was introduced this year (although not acted upon) that would have eliminated permanent periodic alimony for long-term marriages, eliminated the current guideline brackets based on the years of marriage and pretty much abolished it for marriages of less than two years duration.

Understanding the intricacies of alimony can be crucial to resolving your divorce. Make sure to get competent and experienced legal advice on this issue. As always, if I can be of assistance to discuss the particulars of your situation, please call me.