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Is alimony for life in Georgia?

by Sharon Jackson  on December 13, 2022 under 

Except in extreme cases, alimony in Georgia is not for life. Some spouses have a vital, necessary, and demanding income requirement, such as caring for a disabled child, and consequently cannot work. In such unusual cases, judges can extend payment duration, or they are at least open to a subsequent motion to modify or stop payments.

To understand why lifetime alimony is so seldom granted, continue reading, as we explain how Georgia alimony law works.

Lifetime or Permanent Alimony in Georgia Law

The term "permanent alimony" could be a little confusing. Alimony is described by Georgia law as “an allowance out of one party’s estate, made for the support of the other party when living separately. It is either temporary or permanent.” (Georgia Code Title 19, Article 1O). This is where the term "permanent" was derived.

Permanent (or lifetime) in this context typically doesn't always imply forever. Rather, permanent here essentially means not short-term. It does not necessarily follow that the obligee or receiving spouse will get continual alimony for the rest of their lives. In practice, the presiding court may order alimony to continue throughout the receiving spouse's entire lifetime or for a certain period of time, such as five or ten years.

What Alimony Is For

Alimony is typically intended to assist a spouse in addressing unforeseen expenses or achieving financial independence. Temporary (short-term) alimony is typically suitable in both situations.

Deposits on rental properties, legal fees, and other divorce-related costs typically come up unexpectedly. If the obligee was unprepared for the divorce, the obligee's case is stronger. The obligee's case is substantially weaker if the couples had been drifting apart for some time and/or if the obligee had filed the petition. These transitional alimony payments typically come to an end when the judge grants the divorce.

Permanent alimony is occasionally used as a mechanism for income redistribution. If the obligee will never be able to maintain a standard of living comparable to the other spouse, judges frequently grant lifelong alimony. If the obligee is disabled or has custody of a disabled child and is unable to work as a result, permanent alimony may also be appropriate.

Eligibility For Alimony

In Georgia, you may wonder “Am I entitled to alimony?”. The answer is alimony is not a required component of your divorce. Situations like infidelity or abandonment render the spouse's entitlement to ask for spousal support invalid. Usually, when a long-term marriage (ten or more years) ends, spousal support is granted to the spouse who has the least capacity for income generation.

Factors in Qualifying for Alimony

  • Standard of living when living together
  • Length of marriage
  • Age, future earnings, and physical condition of the receiving spouse
  • The earning potential, financial condition, and debts of the paying spouse
  • Contributions to the marriage that add value but don't generate revenue

Calculating the Amount of Alimony Payments

The court determines and awards alimony payments. In Georgia, spousal support is not determined according to any predetermined formulas. The method for determining financial support may be seen as arbitrary and subject to interpretation. Any award of support (alimony) is typically determined by "the needs of one spouse" and "the other spouse's ability to pay."

Temporary Spousal Support

While a divorce is being finalized, temporary support is frequently granted. When one spouse will be living alone and without a source of income, this may be very crucial. Payment schedules for temporary alimony payments might be set to be weekly, biweekly, or monthly.

Permanent Spousal Support

The term permanent support is misleading because this is typically given for a short period of time. Spousal support will very certainly be granted for a limited duration. The common consensus is that this money is given for a time period that enables the spouse to become independent. Even if long-term assistance is granted, a request for support modification may result in a reduction in the amount.

How long is spousal support in Georgia?

Support payments in Georgia vary in duration. It may be time-based, such as based on a third of the length of the marriage, or depending on how long it may take the spouse receiving the support to establish an income source.

In recent years, Georgia courts have tended to decree alimony to last for a number of years, typically in decreasing increments, rather than for life. If a court decrees alimony for four years, for instance, the court can mandate that the recipient spouse pay $1,000 per month for the first two years, $750 per month for the third year, and $500 per month for the final year. Although it is uncommon, lifetime alimony is still a possibility. However, there are still occasions where permanent or lifetime alimony may be stopped, even after it has been ordered. These conditions include:

  • receiving a substantial inheritance
  • winning a lottery 
  • The receiving spouse's re-marriage
  • the passing of either spouse

Contact us

Due to the intricate nature of Georgia's alimony laws, it is essential to discuss them with a qualified divorce attorney.

Call Attorney Sharon Jackson at (678) 909-4100 to schedule a consultation with a skilled family law attorney in Gwinnett County.


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