Question about alimony

First off, you are not my lawyer, and all the disclaimers that come with it. I’m not seeking legal advice per se, just wondering generally what happens in this situation. My sister and her husband have been married to 10+ years. Throughout most of the marriage he held part time jobs here and there while she worked full time. Eventually she started her own business and he worked for her, but when the economy tanked, her business went out of business. They have two kids–one born before she opened the business, one born just as she was closing it and starting her new job. He hasn’t worked since then (over 2 years at this point). He has been staying home with the kids instead, though the oldest is now in school and the youngest is in half-day montessori school. Not ideal by any means–they’ve had to rely heavily on financial assistance from various family members in order to keep the house.

They’ve been fighting over money recently (he’s in charge of paying bills but hasn’t been doing so in a timely manner and it’s causing late fees and cut-offs). Now he is threatening to leave her and take the kids. Her biggest fear is the kids. He has convinced her that he will most likely get custody and she will have to pay him alimony because he’s been the primary caretaker all those years.

I’ve been trying to console her but I don’t want to tell her this won’t happen if there is a chance it will. He has a college degree from a good school and is physically capable of working (and always has been, has just chosen not to). Realistically, what are the chances she would have to pay him alimony? They are in Georgia, by the way.
(sorry…just realized this turned into a book)

Georgia Annotated Statutes: 19-6-5.
  (a) The finder of fact may grant permanent alimony to either party,
  either from the corpus of the estate or otherwise. The following
  shall be considered in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to
  be awarded:
    (1) The standard of living established during the marriage;
    (2) The duration of the marriage;
    (3) The age and the physical and emotional condition of both
    (4) The financial resources of each party;
    (5) Where applicable, the time necessary for either party to
    acquire sufficient education or training to enable him to find
    appropriate employment;
    (6) 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;
    (7) The condition of the parties, including the separate estate,
    earning capacity, and fixed liabilities of the parties; and
    (8) Such other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and
  (b) All obligations for permanent alimony, however created, the time
  for performance of which has not arrived, shall terminate upon
  remarriage of the party to whom the obligations are owed unless
  otherwise provided.

There is the matter of the actual law and then their is the the issue of bias in the courts against fathers getting custody of the kids unless the mother shows up at the hearing smoking a crack pipe. I don’t know them or who or what is at fault but she would have to have done something really bad for him to have a realistic shot at what he is threatening and that is just for the child custody part. Males very rarely get alimony from their ex-wives either. The percentage of alimony recipients that is female is in the high 90’s.

Tell your brother in law that he is proposing not one but two nearly hopeless fights simultaneously and he most likely won’t win unless there are some major facts left out of this story. It would be a shame to waste so much money on something that will just tear the family including the kids apart further.

It depends on the state, but alimony has fallen out of favor in recent years. It’s generally accepted that most able bodied adults of less than geriatric age can find gainful employment sooner or later, and that they should. Alimony is sometimes still awarded, but it’s the purview of the really rich or it’s temporary (6 months to a couple of years) while the non-working spouse goes to school or regains skills in the job market.

2 years? Pfft. 2 years is nothing. His skills haven’t had time to meaningfully atrophy, the technology of his field hasn’t moved on without him, he’s probably got less than 10 phone calls to make to reconnect with the old network. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but it’s not the kind of situation which alimony is used for these days.

If he were a 63 year old woman who hadn’t held a job since the steno pool in college, he might get alimony. But a stay at home Dad for 2 years? Not a chance, in my non-lawyery opinion.

Sorry I posted then bailed for the day. I was helping my daughter with 3 school projects due by the end of the month (seriously…she has two teachers…they can’t coordinate??)

I thought I was correct about the custody thing but I think it will make her feel better seeing it from someone else.


Generally custody will revolve around home life - who can provide the nuturing environment, support, household (i.e. cooking, cleaning) and who will be there to watch you kids. I have seen fathers when when grandma steps in and says she will help take care of the kids pretty much full time…

I suppose too what will come out in the fight is whether BiL is “stay-at-home dad” or just unemployed male. Does he do all the hosuework, drive them to school, etc.? Did he make any effort to replace his job? Does he do a good job of looking after the kids? Would any prospective job give him the flexibility to look after kids (i.e. can’t drop them off til 8:45, can’t be at work then until 9:15…); how often does he leave the kids with a babysitter to go out on his own?

I think as others have pointed out, unless BiL has an(expensive) good lawyer or sis has a total dud of a lawyer, it ain’t gonna happen. It all depends on how their unorthodox arrangements are spun to the judge, but genenrally mom gets custody of younger kids; however, as any legal beagle will tell you, anything can happen when it gets to a judge.

And yes, alimony for able-bodied workers just does not exist. What one will get from the other is child support - usually each spouse’s fair share of child expenses is calculated, and the non-custodial pays the custodial parent.

I suggest that if necessary, sis consult a lawyer in the family law field to see what the options are. If she needs to do it on the sly and needs money, maybe you can front it for her. See if your family offering to help her with child care etc. would add any points to determining custody if that is the goal; what else would help. A good lawyer should be able to spin “just because she works to support the family and he does not, he should not automatically get custody.” Also find out whether documenting the instances - write down what he said, on what dates - shows intent to game the system on the BiL’s side…

He does not do housework. He should, he just doesn’t. She does most of the cleaning at night when he’s hooked up to the video game console. He doesn’t do yardwork–they pay a company to do it (and I only know this because he bounced a check with them a few months back and while I was visiting, the guy came to collect). I advised her to start writing everything down, if for no other reason than to refresh her memory if need be. Someone gave me this advice when I was going through my divorce (in a different state) and it proved invaluable, especially as it got more emotional near the end.

Also, I wanted to add (and I don’t mean this to sound snarly, truly) that it doesn’t matter what time the kids have to be at school and he has to be at work, he should still get a job! I have to be at work at 7am and my daughter doesn’t start school until 8:30. I searched and found a before and after school program that takes to school and picks her up. If I can find one here, I’m sure there’s one in Atlanta! This just sounds like another one of his excuses. Single moms all over the country deal with that kind of stuff every day and somehow manage to make it work.

One of my relatives got custody of his kids, plus an injunction that they stay catholic. But… His (ex)wife had gone and converted to JW and had questionable friends. He was interning to be a surgeon, 24 hours on shift… But his mother basically Took over raising the kids, and money was no object for a future surgeon.

Yes, document document document. Have copies notarized if need be. Just the facts, no editorializing. Nothing beats page after page of incidents…

See, this is how it goes:
His lawyer says - “because of economic circumstances, he has instead devoted himself to raising the children and being the primary caregiver.”
Hers says - “He hasn’t done a bit of the housework. Or yard work. In fact, he is so financially irresponsible, he has let the power go out, and borrows from relatives to pay a service to cut the grass for him.”
Hs says - “oh yeah? Prove it!” this is where the journal comes in - when did he actually cook dinner, how nutritious, when did he vacuum, how many days did dirty dishes sit in the sink, etc.

i wonder if we’ve reached the point where your World of Warcraft track record becomes a item to be supoenaed during a divorce fight.

The problem is that the judge has seen every type of nasty fight over every conceivable household issue. If one side or the other comes across as too aggressive, or nasty, or overly picky, the judge will likely read between the lines and have sympathy for the other side