Will I Have To Pay Alimony?

alimony divorceBy Andrea Johnson

Cordell & Cordell Divorce Attorney

If you have been the primary financial provider for your family, it is possible that you will have to make alimony payments.

In many states, there is no hard and fast method of calculating alimony payments. And to be quite frank, estimating what a judge may do is often fruitless.

Because the laws of many states allow so much judicial discretion in calculating alimony, the methods and manners for determining whether alimony is appropriate and/or how much alimony should be paid may vary from court to court.

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Alimony Laws

Let me provide you with a typical case study:

Husband and Wife met in college. Both graduated from college with bachelor’s degrees in accounting. They married after graduation when Husband was 23 and Wife was 22 years old. Both parties began working in accounting immediately after graduation. 

Wife stopped working at the birth of the parties’ first child and has been a stay at home mom since. Husband is now 35 years old and earns approximately $106,000.  Wife is 34 and stays at home with their two young children.

Question: Will Husband have to pay alimony? How much? For how long will have to pay?

Answer: Yes, Husband will likely have to pay alimony and the answers to the remaining questions may vary depending on a number of factors.

The court will generally consider such factors as:

Marriage length: In cases where the parties have been married for less than five (5) years, it is unlikely that a court will award alimony on a final basis, at least in the state I practice in, Georgia. That does not, however, mean that there is an absolute rule that there is no alimony award for short marriages, nor does it mean that temporary alimony may not be awarded

Financial resources of each party: The court will consider whether Wife has financial resources other than Husband’s income with which to support herself.  For example, if Husband did provide the financial support for the family, but Wife had a $2 million savings account that had not been touched during the course of the marriage, the court may not choose to award alimony to Wife because she has resources off of which she may support herself until she acclimates herself into the workforce.

Time needed to acquire training or education to re-enter the workforce: The court definitely contemplates how long it will take Wife to get herself into the work force. In the scenario mentioned, Wife earned a bachelor’s degree and gained some work experience. However, it has been many since she was last employed.

In today’s economy, it is extremely difficult to find work, even when your most recent experience was just a few months ago. The courts do recognize the difficulty in obtaining work and will contemplate this in alimony awards.

A high unemployment rate makes it undeniable that getting work is difficult. Plus, the high unemployment rate does not include people like Wife, who are voluntarily not working. This number is the percentage of people who are looking for work and cannot find it.  The court will likely allow somewhere between three and seven years of alimony payments in the scenario above.

Each spouse’s earning capacity: In the scenario above, Wife has the ability earn at the rate of a professional. She has a bachelor’s degree and some work experience. She, however, certainly does not have the earning capacity of Husband given that Husband is currently in the work force and has been for many years.

Some judges will equalize the parties’ income (before the consideration of child support) and then allow for a drop down of the support after time periods allowing for Wife to re-establish herself into the workforce.

Contributions to the marriage: The courts definitely consider a stay at home spouse’s work toward supporting the house.

A court can order temporary alimony while the divorce is pending. Most alimony is ordered for a specific length of time. Though conduct can bar permanent alimony, it is possible for the court to enter an award for temporary alimony, even when conduct may otherwise not order it on a permanent basis.

So if you have been the primary provider for your spouse and children and your spouse is not able to support herself, you probably will have to pay some form of spousal support.

Cordell & Cordell:

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Georgia divorce lawyer Andrea JohnsonAndrea M. Johnson is a Senior Attorney in the Atlanta, Georgia office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Johnson is licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia. Ms. Johnson was born in the metro-Atlanta area and has spent most of her life in Georgia. She received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia in 1998. Ms. Johnson received her Juris Doctor from Mercer University School of Law in 2002.  Since graduating from law school, Ms. Johnson has practiced in the area of family law. Additionally, she has worked in general civil practice, immigration, and estate planning. Ms. Johnson has briefed two cases successfully before the Georgia Court of Appeals, one of which was a modification of custody action.

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31 Comments on "Will I Have To Pay Alimony?"

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[…] party is often ordered to pay spousal support, often referred to as alimony. If children are involved, child support is typically ordered and […]

3 months 16 days ago

I make 26000 a year and my wife collect SSI 900 a month can she still get me for alimony or spousal support

7 months 29 days ago

I have been married 20 yrs and my husband stopped all making love to me 13 yrs ago. We are both 62 yrs old and in great health. He has been cheating on me for years and I can’t divorce hI’m because I can’t afford to take care of myself by myself. .we both work but he makes 3 times what Iake. Can I get alimony?

robert gonzalez
9 months 10 days ago

if i am paying alimony, and ex spouse does not make attempt to work full time and now moving to mexico, do i still pay? even if she is living in a different state

1 year 2 months ago
I was in a marriage for 5 years . Together for 7 years. Before marrying she cheated on me. I married in hopes of making are relationship better. It only became worse. We are now divorcing and because of my health I’m unable to support myself or daughter from a previous relationship, because of health issues. My wife makes $130,000 a year. From what I have read, a 5 year marriage may not be long enough even for alimony support. Just to allow me to get back on my feet. I would appreciate feed back anyone with experience with this.… Read more »
Sandy Dunbar
1 year 2 months ago

Please help with with advise

Sandy Dunbar
1 year 2 months ago

I have been married for lirtle over 6yrs. My husband didnt want me to work. I have 2 children live at home for previous married he dies in 2007.We liive in state of missouri. With my new husband. I left family and friends to move here. Want to file for divorce bit dont know my oppsions. Will he help me move back home. Or alimony? Can i vet some of his 401k plan or benefits? Thank you for you help gos bless

1 year 4 months ago

My dad would like to know how he can get spousal maintenance removed completely from his check. My mom already signed papers at the child support office to stop it because she is receiving Disability income each month. But my dad is still having 118 from each check each week. Is there something further my mom can do to cease all payments from my dads check. Phoenix Az

1 year 6 months ago
If somebody could please inform me that would be great, thank you. What if the wife lies to the husband, and even to thE child for him to, ” not tell daddy she’s with her friend. ” The wife is clearly seeing someone else. The husband is a hardworker who loves his kids and wants to keep the family together, but the wife is seeing someone else. Out of nowhere while the husband is at work she moves all her stuff and leaves the house of matrimony to live with her mom. The husband is sad, but somehow they both… Read more »
1 year 7 months ago

The courts usually do a pretty good job in determining what alimony is owed. I would say that it does go both ways. My husband and I divorced a few years a go and my position with my business makes more money than he does so I was actually required to pay him alimony. A twist that isn’t typical but I know what he makes and we have joint custody so in my opinion the money is going to help support my kids when they are with him, and for that I have no problem paying.