Saturday, October 8, 2011

How to Determine the Duration of Alimony and New Trends

As Augusta, Georgia divorce attorneys, we are often asked by folks about how Georgia judges (or juries) determine the amount of alimony in a divorce case and how long such alimony must be paid.  Today, let's focus only on the latter question -- about the length or duration of alimony.  Simply put, generally, in Georgia, while there are guidelines, a judge has complete discretion to determine how long he or she believes alimony should be paid.  Put another way, while a judge will consider the length of the marriage, and the parties' needs and ability to pay, (among other factors), in determining the amount of alimony, the judge generally also has  a lot of discretion in determining the length of time or duration in which it must be paid. 

But judges have common sense.  For example, in theory, it is possible that a party in a short-term marriage of two or three years could get permanent alimony.  But that is not likely to happen.  However, the point is that, in Georgia, generally, judges retain complete discretion to decide the duration of alimony. But that's in Georgia.  What about other states?  Are there any new trends or new approaches in states' alimony statutes?

In Florida, in 2010, their state legislature reportedly enacted a new alimony statute which essentially divides marriages into three categories, based upon duration.  Short-term marriages are defined as marriages less than 7 years; moderate, 7-17 years; and long-term marriages are defined as longer than 17 years.  These three categories, in turn, help determine the duration of alimony payments.

Also, in Massachusetts, just last week, their state legislature passed a new law which similarly limits the duration of alimony payments based upon the length, or duration, of the marriage.  For instance, now, in Massachusetts, for long-term marriages, (i.e. defined as being more than 20 years), alimony will end at retirement age.  And now -- get this -- under their new law, if you have been married for 5 years, or less, the duration of alimony will now reportedly be automatically capped at 50% of the number of months you were married. 

In other words, there appears to be a trend toward "fixing" alimony statutes by limiting a judges' discretion as to the duration of alimony.  Of course, you should consult with a divorce lawyer in your own state about your own state's laws about divorce and alimony!

What is your opinion of this trend and these statutory changes in some states which limit the duration of alimony based upon the duration of the marriage?  Should their be statutory limitations, or should judges retain the discretion to decide how long alimony should be paid?

Of course, if you were married to a worthless spouse, like "Sluggo," you would be happy if he would get off his lazy "trend" and make even one alimony payment!  


  1. When my first husband and I divorced in 1990, he felt so much guilt for having an affair with our friend, that he paid me alimony for 2 years and even after I had remarried! He told me that he'd pay it for the whole two years we had agreed on, and for me to go ahead and get married. Sounds nice, huh? But it was just guilt, he was not a very nice man.

  2. Katlupe, Thanks for the visit and observation.