Atlanta Divorce, Alimony – Georgia Case Update
On May 4, 2009, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling in the Fulton County divorce case of Patel v. Patel (S09F0505). This case involved a long marriage of 22 years. The Husband was a doctor who owned an Atlanta medical practice and the Wife did not work. The Wife had requested a long term alimony. The Atlanta divorce court only awarded four years of alimony with $5,000 for the first year; $4,000 for the following two years; and $3,000 for the final year. The Wife appealed this award, specifically, challenging the trial court’s finding that she is capable of updating her skills and reentering the work force, and its consideration of the parties’ respective financial resources. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.
During the course of the divorce trial, evidence was presented that the wife was capable of going back to work. The Atlanta divorce court apparently reasoned that the Wife was capable of updating her skills and working again. The four years of alimony were clearly to give her the time to update her skills so that she could support herself.
The Supreme Court ruled that, ”if any facts are presented in court that would support the trial court’s decision, the Supreme Court will uphold the trial court’s decision.” In Georgia divorce cases involving alimony, there is no mathematical formula for the trial judge to use. Thus, fact-finders (the divorce judges) are given a wide latitude in fixing the amount of alimony. To this end they are to use their experience as enlightened persons in judging the amount necessary for alimony under the evidence as disclosed by the record and all the facts and circumstances of the case.
Fortunately for the Wife in this case, the alimony payments were set to a schedule and did not have a condition upon which they would expire. This means that the alimony constituted lump sum alimony, which is not subject to modification and not taxable to the Wife. In order for alimony to be tax deductible to the Husband and taxable to the Wife, the alimony must be periodic and must terminate on the Wife’s death.
This case illustrates a growing trend in many Atlanta divorce cases. The days of long term alimony are slowly disappearing. The common held belief is that the Courts are now considering the fact that the work place is open to employment for both sexes. Of course, every case is different and hinges on the particular set of facts of the case.