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Alimony in Georgia: How does it work?

Curious about how alimony works in Georgia? We explain the types of alimony available in GA, how it is calculated, and more in this overview.

evident Editorial Team
January 30, 2024
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If you're going through a divorce in Georgia, you probably have lots of questions. One that is often on top of people's minds as they consider their post-divorce financial future is, "How does alimony work in GA?"

In this article, we'll provide an overview of alimony in Georgia and cover key questions, including how alimony is calculated in Georgia, how long does alimony last, and whether alimony is taxable in Georgia.

Let's begin by explaining the types of alimony that are available in Georgia.

Key Takeaways

Types of Alimony in Georgia

Understanding the types of alimony available in Georgia is essential for individuals navigating divorce. The two main types of alimony in GA are:

  • Temporary Alimony: Temporary alimony is awarded during the divorce process and ends when the divorce is finalized.
  • Permanent Alimony: Permanent alimony, which is not necessarily permanent, refers to any alimony to be paid once the divorce case is over.

Note that a temporary alimony award does not guarantee the court will grant permanent alimony. The two forms of spousal support are considered separately based on the relevant circumstances.

Understanding the nuances of these alimony types is essential for those going through divorce proceedings in Georgia. The court considers various factors to determine the appropriate type and amount of alimony, ensuring a fair and equitable outcome for both parties.

How is Alimony Calculated in Georgia?

If the court determines that the spouse seeking alimony needs financial support and that the other spouse has the ability to pay, then Georgia law provides a list of factors for the judge to consider when calculating permanent alimony.

The eight factors are:

  1. Standard of Living During Marriage
  2. Length of the Marriage
  3. Health and age of the parties (both physical and mental health)
  4. Each party's financial resources
  5. Earning capacity (and specifically the time required for either party to get the necessary training or education to find employment)
  6. Contributions to the marriage, including non-monetary contributions such as homemaking or childcare
  7. The "condition of the parties," including their respective earning capacities and any separate liabilities
  8. Any "other relevant factors as the court deems equitable and proper"

Unlike child support, Georgia does not have a specific formula for alimony calculations. The eighth factor, in particular, is a catch-all factor and underscores the discretion that Georgia courts have when calculating alimony awards.

Marital Misconduct and Alimony in GA

In addition to the factors listed above, Georgia alimony laws also state that a spouse is not entitled to receive alimony if their "adultery or desertion" led to the couple's separation, and the misconduct can be demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence.

Georgia law also states that "In determining whether or not to grant alimony, the court shall consider evidence of the conduct of each party toward the other."

How is Alimony Paid in Georgia?

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In terms of the mechanics of how Georgia alimony gets paid, there are two common structures:

  • Periodic Alimony: Regular, ongoing alimony payments made by one spouse to the other. Periodic alimony is more common and is often paid monthly.
  • Lump-Sum Alimony: Instead of periodic alimony, lump-sum payments involve a one-time payment from one spouse to the other. This option is less common because the financial challenges of going through a Georgia divorce make it difficult for the paying spouse to make a large, lump-sum payment.

As mentioned, periodic alimony payments are more common, and they are often subject to an income deduction order. This means that the paying spouse's employer takes the alimony payment from their paycheck and transfers it to the lower-earning spouse.

Penalties for failing to pay alimony in Georgia can include being held in contempt of court, monetary fines, and even jail time.

How Long Does Alimony Last in Georgia?

The duration of alimony in Georgia is not set by a fixed formula but is determined based on the specific circumstances of each divorce case. The court considers factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial needs of the supported spouse, and the ability of the paying spouse to provide support.

Truly "permanent" alimony is rare and typically only awarded in cases where the age or health of the supported party prevents them from obtaining appropriate employment and becoming self-sufficient.

When Does Alimony End in Georgia?

Alimony in Georgia may come to an end under certain circumstances. Remember that temporary alimony ends when the divorce case is over. Permanent alimony, though, also ends upon certain events or circumstances.

For instance, Georgia alimony law provides that alimony obligations end if the supported spouse remarries. This event is typically a positive change in the financial circumstances of the supported spouse and a reason their ex-spouse should no longer be required to pay spousal support.

Additionally, permanent alimony may also end based on a court order specifying the duration of support or through a mutual agreement between the divorcing parties.

Understanding when alimony ends is crucial for individuals navigating divorce proceedings in Georgia and planning their financial circumstances once their marriage is over.

Can You Modify Alimony in Georgia?

Yes, either spouse can ask the court to review the alimony agreement unless the parties have agreed in writing that they would not seek to modify the alimony order.

The spouse seeking to modify alimony must typically show that there has been a change in circumstances since the time of the order that would justify modifying the original alimony arrangement.

For instance, if the supported spouse cohabitates with a new romantic partner, that could lessen their need for financial support. Meanwhile, if the paying spouse loses their job, it could negatively impact their ability to continue making alimony payments.

The Bottom Line

So, how does alimony work in GA? Let's recap the key takeaways.

The two types of alimony available in GA are temporary and permanent. Temporary alimony is paid by one spouse while the divorce is pending, while permanent alimony refers to spousal support ordered once the divorce is finalized.  

Georgia alimony laws provide eight factors for the court to consider when calculating alimony in GA, though the threshold questions are whether one spouse has a need for financial support and whether the other spouse has the ability to pay.

GA alimony can be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as the receiving spouse cohabitating with a new romantic partner or the higher-earning spouse losing their job. Otherwise, alimony in GA typically lasts as long as the court order dictated or until the lower-earning spouse remarries.

If you're going through a divorce in Georgia, consider speaking with an experienced divorce attorney. They can help you navigate Georgia alimony laws as well as other related issues, such as how much a Georgia divorce might cost.

FAQs About Alimony in GA

Is Alimony Taxable in Georgia?

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed the tax treatment of alimony in GA for any spousal support agreement finalized after January 1, 2019.

Unlike the previous tax treatment, alimony is no longer deductible for the spouse paying alimony, and the recipient spouse does not need to report it as taxable income. Previously, the paying spouse could deduct alimony payments from their income, and the receiving spouse had to report the alimony as taxable income.

It's essential to be aware of these tax implications when considering alimony arrangements during divorce proceedings, and it's worth consulting an experienced family law attorney if you have questions as you navigate these complexities.

How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in Georgia?

There is no strict rule about the length of the marriage for alimony in Georgia. The court considers various factors and the particular circumstances of the parties, and the length of the marriage is just one relevant part of the analysis.

All things equal, longer marriages typically lead to longer-lasting spousal support payments. However, this is not always the case, and the court examines the specific circumstances of each case to determine the appropriateness of alimony based on factors noted above (such as the length of the marriage, financial needs, and contributions of each spouse to the marriage).

How to Avoid Paying Alimony in Georgia

If you're curious about how to avoid paying alimony in Georgia, it's important to note that you should, of course, fulfill any court-ordered alimony arrangement. If the judge has ordered you to pay alimony, you must make those court-ordered payments. If not, there are consequences if you do not meet your spousal support obligations.

Thus, if you want to avoid paying alimony in GA, there are two things you should consider. First, whether you can reach an agreement with your ex-spouse during the divorce process that does not involve paying support after the divorce and asking the court to modify or terminate alimony if there is already an order in place.