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How is alimony affected by prior conduct?

Georgia residents are likely aware of the term no-fault divorce. Over the last 40 years or so, most states have created a cause of action in which spouses wishing to dissolve their marriages can simply plead that the marriage is 'irretrievably broken' without being more specific as to the problems that occurred. While Georgia still maintains fault-based causes of action for divorce, most present-day dissolutions of marriage will be of the no-fault kind.

Does this mean that the parties' prior behavior means nothing during the divorce? Not necessarily. One of the aspects of a divorce that might be affected by a spouse's actions is alimony. Georgia Code Section 19-6-1 sets out the basics that a court looks at when deciding alimony. Generally, if one party requests alimony, the court will look to the circumstances of the case and the needs of the party requesting the alimony as well as the other party's ability to pay it.

However, the statute specifically states that alimony will not be granted to a spouse whose acts of adultery or desertion were the reason for the divorce. This restriction applies regardless of the grounds pleaded in the divorce filing, and whether they are fault or no-fault. Further, even when there is no adultery the law authorizes the court to take into consideration how the parties conducted themselves with regard to each other during the marriage when determining whether to award alimony.

As can be seen, while actually receiving a divorce these days is unlikely to turn on what the spouses did to each other to create the separation decision, how they treated each other may be relevant when determining aspects of the divorce order such as payment of alimony. People with further questions as to how this might affect their situations may wish to consider consulting an experienced Georgia family attorney.

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