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Premarital Cohabitation Can be Considered When Determining Alimony

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In Georgia, the determination of the amount of alimony or spousal support awarded to a party is within the sole discretion of the fact finder. Unlike child support, there is no mathematical formula to calculate the amount of alimony a party may be entitled to.

What that means is when calculating alimony, a fact finder is essentially given unlimited discretion in determining the following:

  1. Whether alimony should be awarded
  2. The amount of alimony; and
  3. The frequency or duration of alimony

In applying this unlimited discretion, a fact finder can consider a variety of factors. Some of these factors are delineated in Georgia’s alimony statutes and include: the standard of living during the marriage, duration of the marriage, financial resources of each party, conduct of the parties, etc.

The last factor delineated is a catch-all provision and it includes “such other relevant factors as the courts deem equitable and proper.”

In Sprouse v. Sprouse (2009), the Supreme Court of Georgia weighed whether it was appropriate for a trial court to use the catch-all provision to consider the length of the parties’ pre-marital relationship as a factor when deciding on the amount of and duration of alimony. The Supreme Court ruled that under the catch-all provision, a trial court COULD consider the parties entire relationship, including periods of premarital cohabitation.

This is important to note where alimony may be an issue because it obviously expands the scope of what may be relevant. It is an example of how a fact finder may consider anything and everything connected to the relationship, and not just the marriage, when making an alimony determination.

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