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If you or your spouse is seeking alimony (spousal support) or is considering seeking alimony, effective legal counsel is critical to protect your rights. Alimony is a highly subjective decision. If your case goes to court, the judge will decide whether your divorce will include spousal support, how much it will amount to and for how long it will be paid. Your divorce lawyer can present the necessary information with an explanation for why alimony is or is not necessary. Because alimony is entirely within the judge’s discretion, your divorce lawyer’s aggressive representation can be the difference in whether alimony is awarded.

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    Determining Alimony in Georgia

    Courts generally base alimony on need and ability — the need of one spouse and the other spouse’s ability to pay. Alimony can provide the dependent spouse with temporary support while pursuing education or a job, for example. Spousal support is more common in long-term marriages. In Georgia, a long-term marriage is generally regarded as 10 or more years. While the length of alimony is discretionary to the judge, a guideline approach is to take one-quarter to one-third of the length of the marriage for the payment of alimony. There are many factors that Georgia family court judges may consider when determining whether alimony is appropriate, and if it is, in what amount. Those include:

    • The standard of living during the marriage
    • Income and financial status of each party
    • Future earning capacity of each party
    • Separate assets of each party
    • Noneconomic contributions to the marriage by either spouse, such as child care or homemaking
    • Conduct of the parties toward each other during the marriage
    • Time that the receiving spouse may need to improve earning capacity through education or job training
    • Duration of the marriage


    Types of Alimony

    In the state of Georgia, spousal support and alimony may be awarded in different forms, depending on the circumstances:

    • Permanent alimony, where the paying spouse will continue payments until death or until the spouse receiving payments remarries or has a meritorious relationship (live-in lover law)
    • Temporary alimony, which is awarded during the divorce process and is used to address specific needs during the divorce, including attorneys’ fees
    • Rehabilitative alimony, which is paid to help a spouse with lesser employability or earning capacity become adjusted to post-marital life by enabling that spouse to obtain an education or employment

    There are many factors that are considered when awarding alimony and determining what type to award. There are also defenses to alimony, including adultery and willful abandonment. If you or your spouse is seeking alimony or is considering seeking alimony, effective legal counsel is critical to the outcome.

    Modifications to Alimony

    If circumstances change after the divorce and there are reasons to change the amount of alimony, talk to your attorney about alimony modifications. We help our clients understand their alimony obligations as well as their ability to ask the court for relief of those obligations when the facts warrant it. If your divorce settlement agreement states that alimony is non modifiable, you will not be able to change your alimony payment no matter how much your circumstances or those of your ex-spouse may have changed.

    To modify your alimony obligation, the judge will require proof of a major change in your ability to pay or in your ex-spouse’s need for alimony. Do not make changes in your alimony payments unless the court approves the changes. Changing the payment without a court order can result in a contempt of court action.

    Learn more about modifications to alimony and spousal support here.

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