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Factors for Determining Alimony

In Georgia, alimony may be awarded in a divorce action “to either party in accordance with the needs of the party and the ability of the other party to pay,” taking in account “the conduct of each party toward the other.” O.C.G.A. §19-6-1(c). In order for a court to make a finding regarding alimony and determine the respective needs and abilities of both parties, the court considers eight factors. O.C.G.A. §19-6-5(a). These factors are generally referred to as the alimony factors. Each is discussed in detail below.

Standard of Living

The first factor to be considered is the “standard of living established during the marriage.” O.C.G.A. §19-6-5(a)(1). When making a determination regarding the amount of alimony or whether to award alimony at all, a court may consider “the social standing and luxuries of life which the spouse had been enjoying and would have continued to enjoy had there been no separation.” Bodrey v. Bodrey, 246 Ga. 122 (1980); McNally v. McNally, 223 Ga. 246 (1976). Thus, if the husband and wife lived an extravagant or luxurious lifestyle when married due to the high income of the husband, this lifestyle would be considered in awarding alimony to the wife especially if she could not maintain that same lifestyle or social standing on her own.

Duration of the Marriage

The second factor to be considered is the “duration of the marriage.” O.C.G.A. §19-6-5(a)(2). Generally speaking, if a court does award alimony, the longer the marriage, the longer a spouse will pay alimony. Although there is no set alimony calculation in Georgia, a marriage that lasted for thirty years is more likely to result in an alimony award than a 3 year marriage. However, keep in mind that regardless of the duration of the marriage, if a court determines that a spouse is not in need of alimony or that the other spouse has no ability to pay, even the demise of a 30 year marriage can result in no alimony award.

Physical and Emotional Condition of the Parties

The third factor to be considered is the “age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties.” O.C.G.A. §19-6-5(a)(3). A court’s analysis of the parties’ physical and emotional condition is essential to the courts need versus ability to pay alimony analysis. For example, if one spouse is elderly or has a medical condition requiring extensive treatment, that spouse has a strong argument supporting his or her need for alimony. Conversely, if alimony was sought from that same spouse, that spouse would have a very strong argument that his or her age or condition limits their ability to pay alimony.

Financial Resources of Each Party

The fourth factor alimony factor is the “financial resources of each party.” O.C.G.A. §19-6-5(a)(4). The term “financial resources” is very broad and inclusive. Included in a party’s financial resources are all assets of the parties, specifically but not limited to, property and any associated expenses, income, debts, retirement benefits, and military benefits. See generally Weiner v. Weiner, 219 Ga. 44 (1963); Kosikowski v. Kosikowski, 240 Ga. 381 (1977); Stumpf v. Stumpf, 249 Ga. 759 (1982). Similar to the analysis of each party’s physical and emotional condition, financial factors help the court determine the needs of each party and each party’s ability to pay alimony. The more individual financial resources a party has, the less the need for alimony, and vice versa.

Time Needed to Obtain Employment

The fifth factor a court will consider is the “time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him to find appropriate employment.” O.C.G.A. §19-6-5(a)(5). This factor is most applicable in situations wherein one spouse was a stay at home mother or father. In this situation, that spouse may not have the skills necessary to obtain employment post-divorce if he or she has been out of the workforce for an extended time. As a result, a judge may award alimony for a period of time that would allow that spouse to acquire the skills necessary to obtain appropriate employment. Once that spouse has the training or education that he or she needs to obtain employment, alimony will no longer be needed.

Contribution to the Marriage

The sixth alimony factor is “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.” O.C.G.A. §19-6-5(a)(6). This factor considers all contributions to the marriage, not just monetary contributions. As with the factor discussed above, this factor may apply in situations where one parent was a stay at home father or mother while the other parent worked. Additionally, this factor may apply where one spouse sacrificed earning potential or career opportunities to devote time and energy to the home and family and to support the other spouse’s career. See Moon v. Moon, 237 Ga. 635 (1976).

Financial Condition of the Parties

The seventh factor to be considered is the “condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties.” O.C.G.A. §19-6-5(a)(7). This factor considers the financial position each party will be in post-divorce. Generally, the larger separate estate a spouse has, the less he or she will need alimony. But, a larger estate will also make it more likely that that spouse will have the ability to pay should the other spouse seek alimony. In considering a spouses separate estate, a court may look not only at what the spouse’s financial condition will be immediately post-divorce but also will consider that spouse’s future ability to increase his or her income or assets post-divorce. See generally Moon v. Moon, 237 Ga. 635 (1976). A spouse will be more likely to receive an award of alimony if his or her separate estate is minimal compared to the other spouse’s and if that spouse has limited means to increase his or her estate in the future.

All Other Relevant Factors

The eighth factor to be considered is any “other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper.” O.C.G.A. §19-6-5(a)(8).  This factor is included in Georgia’s law concerning alimony as a catchall provision to cover specific situations that may not have been contemplated by Georgia law makers. Every divorcing couple’s situation is unique. Thus, this factor was built-in to give the court discretion to consider other variables that should be considered in making an alimony determination.