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How do I know if I’m paying too much spousal support?

On Behalf of | Aug 8, 2019 | Divorce

Alimony is a sensitive topic for many people. You may feel uncomfortable with the idea of writing monthly checks to your ex-spouse, which is understandable. However, spousal support is an important part of family law that ensures the continued financial stability of a partner who earned significantly less during a marriage.

Still, your financial well-being is also important, and paying spousal support should not compromise that security. If you are unfamiliar with the spousal support process, you might not recognize when the amount is appropriate and when it should change. Here are a few things regarding spousal support that you should keep in mind.

The length of your marriage matters

If you were only married for a handful of years before filing for divorce, you probably will not be on the hook for long-term payments. In fact, judges usually limit the amount of alimony for shorter marriages. In some situations, judges will not grant any alimony at all.

If you were married for a decade or longer, there is a higher chance that a judge will order you to pay for a longer period of time. He or she will take a number of factors into account before determining how much and for how long you will pay. This is generally according to Georgia’s state formula, but judges have the discretion to take other factors into account as they see fit.

What is your employment status?

Not everyone works a job Monday through Friday that provides a steady, reliable income. Whether you are a shift worker, self-employed or work in any field that yields varying wages, calculating alimony can be hard. However, there is no need to worry if you are divorcing during a year in which your earnings are higher than normal. A judge will probably look at your average income over a period of about five years or so, then use that figure to calculate child support.

If you are unemployed because of layoffs or otherwise through no fault of your own, the judge should take this into account. This does not mean that you can purposely stop working and expect to get out of paying alimony. A judge will likely look into why you are unemployed, and if you quit your job, took an early retirement or other drastic measures to claim that you do not have any income, you will still be on the hook for alimony based on past income or earning potential.

You are not stuck with the same amount for life

When a judge creates an order for spousal support at the time of your divorce, the amount is appropriate for that period of time. However, life changes, and what worked a year or two ago might not anymore. Whether you are earning less money or bringing in bigger paychecks, you can go back to court to modify the original order.

Even when calculated according to a formula, spousal support might not be an accurate reflection of your ability to pay. You may feel worried that you will not be able to make your monthly payments or that doing so will leave you with barely enough to make ends meet. These are valid concerns that one should address in as timely a manner as possible. Because Georgia family law can be complicated, working alongside a knowledgeable attorney can be helpful.