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Permanent alimony is not necessarily "permanent." Permanent alimony typically means alimony incorporated in the final divorce decree.
To establish a claim for permanent alimony in Georgia, a spouse must show:
- That a valid marriage exists between the parties;
- That the parties are living in a bona fide state of separation; and
- That the claim for permanent alimony is incidental to a pending action for divorce or suit for separate maintenance brought by either party.
See O.C.G.A. § 19-5-5; 19-6-3; 19-6-4; 19-6-10; 19-6-12; 19-6-14. Once the above factors are shown by the party seeking alimony, a court must then determine whether alimony is warranted. Courts consider several issues when determining whether alimony is warranted in a particular case. Most often, courts consider the needs of the spouse requesting alimony versus the ability of the other spouse to pay as well as the conduct of both parties during the marriage.
In Georgia, if one spouse shows that adultery or abandonment on the part of the other spouse led to the parties’ separation, the culpable spouse will be barred from receiving alimony. Other negative or inappropriate conduct on the part of the party seeking alimony may be considered by the court as well, but adultery and abandonment are complete bars to an award of alimony. See O.C.G.A. § 19-6-1.
There is no alimony formula or alimony calculation in Georgia. In order to determine the amount of permanent alimony awarded, courts consider the following factors:
- 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 or her 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.
See McDonald v. McDonald, 229 Ga. 702 (1973); Brock v. Brock, 228 Ga. 500; Lowery v. Lowery, 262 Ga. 20 (1992); O.C.G.A. § 19-6-5(a).
As mentioned above, the overarching and controlling factor regarding the award of permanent alimony is the analysis of the needs of the spouse versus the ability of the other spouse to pay. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-1. In order to determine the needs of the requesting spouse, a court or jury may consider that spouse’s age, health, manner and style of living, the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, former position in the community, indebtedness, ability to work and prior employment history, and that spouses current assets or estate. Fried v. Fried, 211 Ga. 149 (1954); Tolbert v. Tolbert, 221 Ga. 159 (1965); Smith v. Smith, 223 Ga. 454 (1967); McNally v. McNally, 223 Ga. 246 (1967); O.C.G.A. § 19-6-5; Howard v. Howard, 228 Ga. 760 (1972); Hardy v. Hardy, 221 Ga. 176 (1965); Brown v. Brown, 222 Ga. 446 (1966). To determine the ability of the other spouse to pay, a court may look to that spouse’s age, health, position in society, manner and style of living, present earnings, earning capacity, indebtedness, assets including real and personal property, and general financial condition. See Fried, Hardy, Tolbert, Lowery and Brown Supra. Additionally, a court may consider any court ordered child support obligations of that parent as well as any previous voluntary allowances made by that spouse for the support of the other spouse. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-5; Wills v. Wills, 215 Ga. 556 (1959).
Once it is determined that a spouse is entitled to alimony and the amount is established, the terms and form of payment must then be set. Alimony may be paid in periodic cash payments, in a lump sum cash payment or in both lump sum and periodic payments. Johnson v. Johnson, 220 Ga. 461 (1964); Legg v. Legg, 165 Ga. 314 (1927). Periodic alimony payments may be set at any interval; however it is most common for alimony payments to be set at monthly or bi-monthly intervals. Not only may alimony take the form of cash payment, permanent alimony may also take the form of the use, ownership, or possession of real, personal or intangible property owned by the other spouse. Spain v. Spain, 203 Ga. 411 (1948). For example, a court may award one spouse possession of the parties’ home and mandate that the other spouse pay any outstanding debt associated with the home along with any taxes, insurance, or maintenance associated with the upkeep of the home. See Maloof v. Maloof, 231 Ga. 811 (1974). For more information concerning the different terms and forms of alimony payments, see our sections entitled Periodic Alimony and Lump sum Alimony.