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Activists seek to reform alimony laws

Divorce often carries with it unforeseen financial stresses for both parties. The lower-earning spouse may have trouble finding work in Atlanta or the surrounding area and may experience a significant drop in standard of living without assistance. Alimony awards are typically granted when they are necessary to balance the financial situations of both parties and provide income to the spouse with less earning potential.

Alimony can be temporary or permanent, based on the needs of the receiving spouse and the other spouse's ability to pay. Temporary alimony is paid until the receiving spouse becomes self-supportive, while permanent alimony typically only stops if the receiving spouse remarries.

Activists in our neighboring state of Florida are currently attempting to reform that state's alimony laws, claiming that they unjustly punish the spouse with the higher income. The reforms proposed would end permanent alimony and would provide standards and guidelines based on the length of the marriage, among other factors, in determining the number and amount of payments.

Proponents have devised a formula for determining alimony payments, and would also require any judge wishing to grant a larger amount or a longer term to explain reasons for modifications in the court record.

However, opponents of the reform claim that the proposed revisions will unduly favor higher earning spouses. They describe the bill as problematic because it would allow existing alimony agreements to be renegotiated according to the new provisions if they become law.

Here in Georgia, permanent alimony is a possibility, although alimony payments will generally end if the spouse receiving them remarries. A judge may consider the length of a marriage when determining alimony payments, although other factors may include the couple's standard of living throughout their time together; each spouse's financial situation; how long it could take either spouse to find a new job, including obtaining the necessary education and training; and how much each person contributed to the marriage and in what ways.

Spousal support can be an effective tool to keep divorced parties on similar financial footing. When a couple divorces, both spouses should be fully aware of their options for reaching a fair and equitable settlement.

Source: WFSU, "Proposed Alimony Overhaul Pits Reformers Against Divorce Lawyers," Jessica Palombo, Dec. 7, 2012

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