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Alimony award overturned due to husband’s inability to pay

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The Georgia Supreme Court recently affirmed the Court of Appeals' reversal of an alimony award as contrary to the evidence presented at trial. Coker v. Coker, 286 Ga. 20 (2009). The parties were married for approximately 24 years and had no children together. The only marital asset was a house. In addition, the husband had a separate asset, an interest in an LLC, which was worth approximately $100,000, but could not be converted to cash. Id. at 20, 21. The wife's income was $45,000 and the husband's income at the time of trial was $500/week, though the trial court determined his annual income to be $30,000. Id. Despite the husband's meager income and assets, the trial court awarded the wife lump sum alimony in the amount of $36,500,which was to be paid within 3 months of the final decree of divorce. Id.

Generally, alimony is to be awarded based upon the needs of the party to whom it is awarded and the ability of the other party to pay. OCGA § 19-6-1 (c). In determining whether alimony should be awarded, and the amount thereof, the court looks at many factors, including the separate assets of each party and their earning capacities. OCGA § 19-6-1 (a). The Supreme Court acknowledged that the wife's anticipated expenses justified her need for alimony, but stated that "the record is completely devoid of any evidence of Husband's ability to pay the trial court's lump sum alimony award." Id. at 22. Without that evidence, the award must be reversed.


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