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Guide to Spousal Support & Alimony in Georgia

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Spousal support, also commonly known as alimony, is when one spouse provides money to the other after divorce.

The idea of spousal support in Georgia, came about when it was expected that during a marriage, the husband would take care of his wife. If they got divorced, the husband had to keep providing financial help to make sure the wife’s living standards stayed the same. Today, spousal support is more universal and can be used to provide for any spouse who earns significantly less and is in need of support when a marriage ends.

In the state of Georgia, alimony is not mandatory—but may be granted by the court or negotiated in an uncontested divorce when financial circumstances are appropriate.

 Who is Eligible for Georgia Spousal Support?

No one has an automatic right to alimony in Georgia. However, spousal support may be granted if two or more of the following conditions are at play:

  • Spouses shared a long marriage
  • One spouse earns significantly more than the other
  • One spouse may have been a home-maker without an income
  • One spouse cannot possibly maintain the shared standard of living on their own income
  • One spouse needs time and financial support to earn job skills
  • The divorce may have been a surprise without time to financially prepare
  • One spouse is not capable of working and supporting themselves at the time of the divorce
  • A fair split of assets will not provide the financial stability needed for both spouses to live separately
  • One spouse is in financial need and the other is able to pay some of their expenses

Length of the Marriage

Spousal support is more likely to be granted after a long marriage in which one spouse earns significantly more than the other. This is because support from a lower-earning spouse is assumed to be part of the higher-earning spouse’s success.

Here’s an example of how the duration of a marriage can impact alimony decisions. Let’s take the case of the Johnson family – they’ve been married for over 30 years. Mr. Johnson was the main income earner, while Mrs. Johnson dedicated her time to raising their children. Fast forward to the divorce: Mrs. Johnson has little to no income, while Mr. Johnson is still doing well in his business. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court ruled could rule favor of Mrs. Johnson, granting her alimony. This decision would be based on her significant contribution to Mr. Johnson’s success and her limited means to support herself after such a long-term marriage.

 Rehabilitative vs Permanent Alimony Types

Georgia has two types of spousal support or alimony agreements: Rehabilitative and permanent.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is a short-term agreement granted to help the lower-earning spouse attain new job skills and begin earning on their own. This is a common form of spousal support after a long-term marriage where one spouse has been a homemaker and/or stay-at-home parent and may have missed opportunities to attain job skills during that time.

Here’s an example of how courts may approach a case involving rehabilitative alimony:

After being married for 15 years, Mrs. Davis asked for rehabilitative alimony since she had been a full-time stay-at-home mom to their three kids. Having taken a break from her career for more than a decade, Mrs. Davis faced challenges in finding a job and earning potential. Mr. Davis objected, mentioning that Mrs. Davis had a business administration degree and previous work experience.

The court acknowledged that Mrs. Davis had been out of work for a significant period and might face difficulties in maintaining her lifestyle. Considering her education and work experience, the court decided against permanent alimony. Instead, they granted rehabilitative alimony for 5 years, giving Mrs. Davis time and resources to update her skills and get back into the workforce.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony is a long-term type of spousal support. It is typically assigned when the lower-earning spouse has a permanent disability or condition that may prevent them from earning or ever progressing to a higher earning level in their career.

Here’s an example of how this law could be applied:

Mrs. Jones became disabled after a car accident, making it impossible for her to continue working in her previous job as a physical therapist.  In this case, the court may order Mr. Jones to pay permanent alimony to Mrs. Jones, as her disability is likely to prevent her from earning a living independently. This form of alimony could continue permanently until the death of either party or until Mrs. Jones remarries.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is a short-term agreement granted to help the lower-earning spouse attain new job skills and begin earning on their own. This is a common form of spousal support after a long-term marriage where one spouse has been a homemaker and/or stay-at-home parent and may have missed opportunities to attain job skills during that time.

Here’s an example of how this law could be applied:  Mrs. Davis was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years during her marriage and has not worked since then. After the divorce, she will need time to update her job skills and find employment before becoming financially independent. In this case, the court may order Mr. Davis to pay rehabilitative alimony for a specific period of time, such as 5 years, to allow Mrs. Davis to go back to school or receive job training and transition into the workforce.

Rehabilitative alimony typically ends once the receiving spouse has achieved their goals of becoming financially self-sufficient, or after a certain period of time determined by the court. This type of alimony is meant to be temporary and help the lower-earning spouse re-establish themselves in

Diminishing Spousal Support

It has become increasingly common, however, to assign a diminishing type of spousal support, in which the higher earning spouse pays less over time. This is a hybrid form of rehabilitative alimony in which it is assumed the lower-earning spouse will begin to grow in their career and independence in the next few years after the divorce.

Here’s an example of how this law could be applied: Let’s say we have a couple we’ll call the Johnsons. After being married for 20 years, they decided to go their separate ways. Mr. Johnson is a high-earning executive, while Mrs. Johnson is a part-time teacher who put her career on hold to raise their children. Now that the kids are grown and Mrs. Johnson has the potential to earn more in the future, the court approved a decreasing spousal support agreement. Over a span of 7 years, Mr. Johnson’s alimony payments will gradually decrease. This gives Mrs. Johnson time to transition back into full-time work and reach her earning potential. The court aims for a fair balance between immediate financial support and promoting self-sufficiency over time.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last in Georgia?

Georgia spousal support can be short term, diminishing, long-term, or lifelong depending on the circumstances. However, modern courts tend to favor short-term and diminishing alimony in most cases where both spouses are capable of working.

Short-term spousal support may only last a few months, and is sometimes assigned to help a lower-earning spouse who was surprised by the divorce and did not have time to prepare for an end to marital finances.

Rehabilitative alimony may last a specific amount of time, follow the diminishing model, or end when the receiving spouse completes their job training phase and has a supporting job.

Permanent alimony is not necessarily permanent, although it can be assigned until the death of one or both spouses. Instead, it simply means ‘long term’. Permanent alimony may be reduced or canceled under certain circumstances or with a renegotiation in a few years time.

Can You Renegotiate Alimony in a Georgia Divorce?

Yes. When financial circumstances change, you can petition the Georgia court to renegotiate your spousal support agreement.  There are several changes that may quality the paying spouse to provide less or even cancel spousal support.

  • The paying spouse experiences a loss or reduction of income
  • The paid spouse completes their education or job training
  • The paid spouse achieves a higher level of income

When the ratio of need and resources changes, both the paying and payed spouses can ask to renegotiate. Typically, this always trends toward lower spousal support payments over time.

Examples of Alimony Renegotiation

Consider the case of Alex, a software engineer who lost their job due to company-wide layoffs. As the paying spouse in an alimony agreement, their loss of income is a significant change in financial circumstances. They may petition the court to renegotiate the terms of their spousal support, as they are no longer capable of making the same payments without their previous salary.

On the other hand, let’s take the example of Jamie, a recipient of rehabilitative alimony. Jamie was a stay-at-home parent for many years, but after their divorce, they pursued a degree in nursing. After graduation, they secured a well-paying job. This change in their status from being unemployed to becoming a professional in a rewarding field is a substantial shift in their economic condition. Jamie should inform the court about their new job, and it is highly likely that the court will reconsider the alimony payments, potentially reducing or even eliminating them due to their increased income.

What Cancels an Alimony Agreement?

There are circumstances where a paying spouse can request to stop sending spousal support to their ex, even if they were granted permanent or long-term alimony. Most importantly, if the paid spouse remarries, they have entered a new marital income lifestyle and their previous spouse is no longer required to pay spousal support.

A significant lifestyle change, living with a partner and sharing a financial household, can also be presented to the court as equivalent to remarriage.

It should be noted that those paying alimony should always petition the court before changing their financial behavior. This ensures that no payments are considered missed or owed.

Let’s consider the case of Jane and John Smith. John was ordered to pay permanent alimony to Jane after they divorced. Jane, however, after a couple of years, began living with her new partner and they started sharing financial obligations, creating a significant change in her economic circumstances. John was aware of this change and petitioned the court, presenting evidence of Jane’s new cohabitation and financial arrangement. The court acknowledged this as equivalent to remarriage, and consequently, John’s alimony payments were canceled. This case exemplifies how significant lifestyle changes can impact alimony payments.

Related Resources

At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, we’re all about helping our clients go from chaos to clarity. That’s why we’ve got a ton of resources on our website, packed with info on family law in Georgia. You’ll find articles, videos, and guides covering topics like modifying family law orders, spousal support in Georgia, strategies to avoid alimony, and more. We’ve also got resources on changing custody and support orders. Our goal is to make sure you’re well-informed and ready to tackle your legal journey with confidence. Feel free to check out these resources and partner with us as we support you through this tough time in your life.

How Petrelli Previtera, LLC Can Help You with Georgia Spousal Support or Alimony

If you are getting divorced in Georgia, the subject of spousal support is a serious matter. If you have supported your spouse for years and need support to rebuild your career, Petrelli Previtera, LLC’s family attorneys can help you make a strong case for alimony and the amount you will need to maintain a comfortable lifestyle while you get back on your feet.

If you have a spouse who is asking for spousal support, Petrelli Previtera, LLC Family Law can help you ensure that their request is reasonable and avoid being forced into paying support if it is unnecessary.

To learn more about how alimony and spousal support work in Georgia and receive personalized legal guidance, contact us today.

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