In Georgia and elsewhere, the number of women paying alimony, or spousal support, and child support to their former husbands is higher than ever before.

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, in the last three years 56 percent of divorce lawyers across the United States have witnessed a rise in the number of mothers responsible for child support. Similarly, about 47 percent of divorce lawyers have seen a jump in the percentage of women paying alimony.

The trend goes hand in hand with career gains won by women in the past few decades. For example, men and women now receive medical degrees at almost equal rates, according to the Digest of Education Statistics. In contrast, in 1980 two men received a medical degree for every one woman. Likewise, in that time the number of women earning law degrees has gone up nearly 100 percent.

In determining alimony, courts have considerable latitude to set the amount and length of the payments.

As part of that flexibility, the court typically considers a variety of factors. Prime among those considerations are the condition of the spouses physically, mentally and financially; how long it would take for the non-breadwinning spouse to become self-sufficient; how long the marriage lasted; what standard of living the couple had enjoyed; as well as to what extent the former breadwinner can afford to continue supporting the other spouse.

If the payer fails to pay, the recipient may file a contempt proceeding with the court in order to prompt payment.

Individuals involved in, or soon to be pursuing, a divorce may benefit from consulting an experienced divorce attorney to learn more about the potential that may exist in terms of who might pay and who might receive alimony and what the obligation entails.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Divorce courts mirror society as more women pay alimony," Patricia Reaney, May 10, 2012