A frequent question in Georgia divorces and separate maintenance actions is how much alimony will be received or paid. Unlike child support awards, which are subject to express guidelines, there are no specific alimony guidelines under Georgia law. The alimony statute, O.C.G.A. 19-6-4, only provides that alimony is to be awarded to either spouse in accordance with the needs of the spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay. The paying spouse's entire "estate", including separate property, may be considered in determining an alimony award. The amount of the award and the length of the payment term is wholly within the discretion of the court or jury. Alimony may be temporary or permanent, periodic or lump sum. Generally speaking, the days of permanent life-time alimony are long gone. Most courts today are awarding alimony for much shorter periods, perhaps five years or so, and its purpose is usually considered to be rehabilitative, i.e., to allow a dependent spouse the necessary time to acquire job skills and rebuild an income-earning ability. However, each case is very fact-dependent, and an experienced attorney's assistance can be invaluable in evaluating and presenting an alimony claim.
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