What's the Difference Between Alimony vs Spousal Support?
What's the Difference Between Alimony vs Spousal Support?

Financial support is a common concern for couples who separate or divorce. One spouse may not have sufficient resources to support a household. In addition, the spouse may not have the experience, education, or skills necessary to find a job that maintains their current standard of living. 

Therefore, the separation or divorce causes a financial hardship for that spouse. Alimony or spousal support provides monetary support after a divorce for a spouse who earns less than the other spouse or did not work outside the home. 

What is the Difference Between Spousal Support and Alimony?

There is no difference between spousal support and alimony. Both terms refer to the financial support paid from one spouse to the other spouse after a divorce. 

Alimony is an older, traditional term used for support payments. However, some think that alimony refers to instances when a man supports a woman after divorce. 

Spousal support is an updated term that is gender-neutral. In Georgia, most courts use the term spousal support instead of alimony. Spousal support is not based on gender or fault. However, the Georgia code refers to financial support following a divorce as alimony.

How Do Judges Determine When Spousal Support or Alimony is Granted?

Georgia Code Section §19-6-1 defines alimony and explains when it is authorized. It’s important to note that the parties can agree upon spousal support—it doesn’t necessarily have to be ordered by a judge. 

Courts are not required to grant spousal support after a divorce. Alimony is decided on a case-by-case basis. It is not a right, but the court can order spousal support when the circumstances justify an award.

Some states tie the payment of alimony to fault. In other words, courts were more likely to award the “innocent” spouse alimony because of the wrongdoing of the at-fault spouse. However, state laws can vary significantly on this point. 

Georgia laws state that a party is not entitled to alimony if that party’s adultery or desertion caused the separation between the parties. Therefore, in Georgia, the fault for the cause of the separation and divorce is an essential factor in decisions regarding alimony. 

In all other cases, alimony may be awarded according to one party’s financial needs and the other party’s ability to pay spousal support payments. Judges consider several factors when determining if a spouse should receive support payments.

Factors include:

  • The conduct of the parties that contributed to the breakup of the marriage
  • Which spouse cared for the children or supported the other spouse’s career
  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s earning potential
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the couple
  • Each spouse’s assets, resources, and income
  • The time it would take for a spouse to acquire the necessary skills, education, and training to obtain appropriate employment
  • The general health and age of both spouses
  • The need for financial support and the ability to pay financial support payments 

The judge may consider any relevant factors related to the financial support of a spouse. Judges have broad discretion to award alimony payments in a divorce action. That includes the amount of spousal support awarded and the duration of the alimony payments. 

How Long Do Alimony Payments Last in Georgia?

There are four basic types of spousal support granted by judges in Georgia. Temporary alimony is generally granted until a divorce is finalized. 

Upon granting the divorce, a judge may grant permanent, periodic, or lump sum alimony. Periodic alimony is one of the most common types of spousal support in Georgia. The judge sets a specific period of time for the alimony payments. If the spouse remarries before the end of the term, the alimony payments cease.

How Are Spousal Support Payments Calculated?

Some states have a standard formula or guidelines for calculating alimony payments. However, Georgia does not. The judge considers the above factors when calculating the amount of alimony. However, there must be a need for financial support and the ability to pay support.

When Should I Discuss Spousal Support with a Georgia Family Law Attorney?

As soon as you can talk to a lawyer, it is wise to do so. Separation and divorce can significantly impact your future, regardless of whether you are the person paying alimony or receiving spousal support. A Georgia family law attorney can help you devise a strategy to ensure that you have the financial means to support yourself and your children after a divorce.

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