Cheating can devastate a marriage, and it often leads to divorce. If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage due to one spouse's adultery, you may be wondering whether the adultery will affect any aspect of the divorce.
This article provides an overview of alimony in Georgia and explains how adultery can impact an alimony award. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should contact an experienced family law attorney for advice.
There are generally two types of divorce: no-fault and fault-based. In a no-fault divorce, the filing spouse asks the court for a divorce because the couple no longer gets along or because they've become incompatible. In Georgia, the court only asks that you admit your marriage is irretrievably broken. In other words, you and your spouse have differences that you can't work through. (Ga. Code Ann. § 19-5-3 (13).) Each state has its own requirements for a no-fault divorce, but typically, it's the fastest and least expensive route to take when divorcing.
In Georgia, however, couples filing for divorce also have the option to file for a "fault" divorce. A fault divorce means that a spouse's marital misconduct caused the breakup, and the filing spouse must prove the allegations before the court will grant the divorce. A common reason for a fault divorce is when one spouse commits adultery in the marriage.
In Georgia, spouses who wish to pursue a fault divorce can cite any of the following reasons:
Although you may feel vindicated from your spouse's misdeeds in a fault divorce, it's important to understand that the legal process can be daunting. A fault divorce is more expensive and time-consuming than a no-fault divorce because it requires both spouses to attend multiple court hearings, present evidence, and most likely, hire attorneys.
In Georgia, adultery is a criminal act, and the law defines it as one spouse having sexual intercourse with a person other than a spouse while married. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-6-19.) To prove adultery, you need more than just one spouse's testimony. Evidence such as photos, recordings, phone records, bank or credit card statements, and witnesses, including private investigators, often prove adultery.
In Georgia, you don't have to prove that sexual intercourse happened if you can prove that your spouse had both the opportunity and the inclination to have committed adultery.
Proving adultery in court can be rather complex because you'll need to know the legal rules of evidence and trial procedure. It's not something most people can do on their own. You should contact an experienced Georgia family law attorney if you are trying to prove adultery in your divorce case.
In Georgia, alimony is financial support paid from one spouse (typically the higher-earning spouse) to the other spouse (the low-earning or "supported" spouse) during and possibly after the divorce proceeding. (Ga. Code Ann. § 19-6-1 (a).)
Alimony can be temporary, lasting for a specific period of time, or permanent, lasting until the supported spouse remarries or dies.
The spouse requesting alimony must prove a need for financial support and show that the other spouse can pay support. After you prove the need and ability to pay, the court takes several other factors into account to decide whether to award alimony and how much. Georgia courts consider the following factors:
There is no formula for calculating alimony in Georgia; the court determines alimony on a case-by-case basis.
For a detailed discussion of alimony, alimony types, and its effects in Georgia, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Georgia.
When adultery is the cause of a divorce in Georgia, the law bars the unfaithful spouse from receiving alimony. (Ga. Code Ann. § 19-6-1 (b).) However, the court won't prohibit alimony unless you prove that the infidelity caused and is the reason for the divorce. In other words, you can't file a no-fault divorce and expect the court to prohibit alimony because your spouse cheated. Additionally, the court won't prohibit alimony due to adultery if you forgave your guilty spouse and continued living together as a married couple.
To read more about the grounds for divorce in Georgia, see The Basics of Filing for Divorce in Georgia.
Adultery generally doesn't affect child custody in a Georgia divorce unless it exposed the children to inappropriate things. Adultery never affects child support in Georgia. (Ga. Code Ann. § 19-6-15.)
Adultery could impact how the court divides a divorcing couple's assets, especially if the unfaithful spouse spent marital funds on the affair, for example, by buying gifts and paying for trips and hotel rooms.
If you have other questions about alimony and adultery in Georgia after reading this article, contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.
To read the full text of the law on alimony in Georgia, see the Georgia Code Annotated, § 16-6-19 and § 19-6-1.