Most states nowadays have implemented no-fault divorces in which a party seeking a divorce need not provide a reason for ending the marriage other than that the marriage has been permanently broken. Georgia has no fault grounds but also still has fault-based divorces in which a party seeking to end a marriage can state the grounds or reasons for the divorce. One of the most common ground for a fault-based divorce is often adultery.
In Georgia, if a spouse committed adultery, and the adultery is what lead to the breakdown of the marriage, he or she is barred from receiving any type of spousal support or alimony. However, that does not mean the non-cheating spouse automatically receives alimony. Alimony is not awarded to a spouse as a matter of right. Rather, it is based on the need of the party seeking the support and the ability of the other party to pay. The court has wide discretion on whether to award alimony and how much to award. In making a determination of alimony award, the court considers a variety of factors, such as:
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties;
- The financial resources of each party;
- The time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him to find appropriate employment;
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
- The condition of the parties, including the separate estate, earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties;
- Marital misconduct (including adultery) of either party; and
- The ability to pay while meeting his/her own needs.
Based on these factors, the court may also dictate whether the alimony will be permanent (last indefinitely) or temporary (to help the nonworking spouse back into the workplace or become self-sufficient). Typically, alimony is temporary and just for long enough until the receiving spouse can get back on their own feet.
It is important to note that when considering adultery as a factor in the alimony determination, the court will generally only look at adultery committed pre-divorce or pre-separation. Post-separation sexual relationships, while technically still considered adultery, will only be relevant if it prevents the parties from reconciling and/or it was an ongoing affair that led to the breakdown of the marriage. Again, this is because in Georgia, adultery is only a bar to alimony if the adultery is what caused the divorce.
Ultimately, the decision on whether alimony should be awarded and how much of it should be awarded rests largely upon the courts. While the courts frown upon adultery, it does not necessarily mean or guarantee the non-cheating spouse will get more alimony.