Atlanta, GA family law attorney Judith Delus Montgomery discusses how alimony works.
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The way alimony works is that the courts are looking for a discrepancy in income. And so there are a lot of times where there is a stay at home parent. The parties had made a decision that one person is going to be at home and they’re going to give up whatever their educational background is, whatever their career path is. They are saying for the greater good of the family, I’m going to put that on the back burner and this is going to be my focus, and so the courts take that very seriously. When there has been an agreement made between the parties, the courts are going to adhere to that agreement.
The other party who is the breadwinner, let’s say, does not get to walk away and leave that other party without any finances. Without a way to live, without a way to pay the rent or the mortgage, or put gas in their car, or put food on the table. Just because that party has made a decision that you’re no longer with them doesn’t mean that your responsibility to them financially goes away. And so the courts are really looking at the discrepancy in income.
Or you may have too, a home where both parties are working, but one is making $30,000.00. The other person is making $130,000.00. You don’t get to leave the $30,000.00 behind and say, you know, good luck. You’re on your own. That person is going to need your assistance. They’re going to need your support to continue to maintain a household. And so that’s where alimony is going to come in. It is going to ensure that other party is not left destitute.
And so what the courts are going to look at when it relates to alimony, is there a need for it? Right. That’s the first question. And then the second question is, does that other party have an ability to pay it? Just because you’re making $30,000.00 a year, maybe your expenses exceed that. So yes, there is a need for alimony, but I’m not able to pay that alimony. And so the courts look at that too.
But when you are in a situation where folks have been married, let’s say 27 years, 30 years, and now you expect this person to now who had been a homemaker all their life to now go out and try to get into the workforce, it may not be possible. Or they may not be able to go and get that education that they need. And so at that juncture the courts are saying guess what? You’re responsible for this person for the rest of their life. Now if they remarry, or if they decide to cohabitate, or if they come in to a different financial standing in their life, then that could alter alimony.
And so there is periodic alimony, and then there is lump sum alimony. And so a lot of the orders that we draft these days as it relates to alimony will say that alimony cannot be modified. Once we’ve signed on the dotted line and we’ve made an agreement as it relates to alimony, this is going to be the alimony. We don’t care what happens to your financial standing. As you get older what we know is that now you are responsible for this person for the rest of their life. That’s what alimony looks like these days.