Permanent Alimony Can Burden Paying Spouse

Parties to a marriage may be on unequal financial footing at the time of the marriage and may possess vastly different earning capacities during the marriage. When a couple divorces, these differences can place the lower-earning spouse at a significant financial disadvantage. Thus, all states, including Georgia, allow courts to grant alimony awards to minimize this disadvantage.

Many married couples are unaware that they may be tied together for life even if they divorce. This link is known as permanent alimony, which is a recurring payment from one spouse to the other until one of them dies, or the receiving spouse remarries. There sometimes exist good reasons for such an arrangement, such as a disability of the receiving spouse that prevents them from working, but it is sometimes applied when the receiving spouse is capable of finding suitable employment. Many states have reformed or done away with permanent alimony and proponents of such reform claim that the reasons permanent alimony was typically awarded in the past exist less frequently than they used to. Many reforms have been suggested in various states with the intent of lessening the burden on paying spouses and encouraging receiving spouses to work towards finding suitable employment to support themselves and their families.

Alimony, or spousal support, is payment from one spouse to the other in cases of divorce, abandonment or separation. The intent of alimony is to minimize any negative economic effects of a divorce to the lower-earning spouse by providing them with a continuous income source. Courts are granted discretion when determining the amount and length of alimony payments. They invoke many factors when determining an alimony award including the length of the marriage, the standard of living of the parties, the financial resources of each spouse and their respective earning capacities. Alimony awards can be either rehabilitative or permanent. Rehabilitative alimony is awarded for as long as is necessary for the receiving spouse to receive proper training or education and become self-supporting. Permanent alimony is awarded until one of the spouses dies, the receiving spouse remarries or a court order dictates otherwise.

Alimony can be a helpful tool for keeping both spouses on similar financial footing after a divorce. Both parties should be aware of their possible right to receive alimony and their responsibilities if they are ordered to pay an alimony award.

Source: US News and World Report, "Taking the 'Permanent' Out of Permanent Alimony," Geoff Williams, Jan. 23, 2013

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