Alimony is the same thing as spousal support. Under Georgia law, alimony and spousal support refer to a payment from one party to another while living separately.

These payments can occur after a divorce between ex-spouses. They can also occur between spouses during a separation, an abandonment, or a pending divorce. In other words, you do not need to divorce for a judge to order alimony.

Here is an overview of alimony and spousal support and when a court can order a party to pay alimony.

Alimony in Georgia

Lawmakers in California coined the term “spousal support” based on each spouse’s legal obligation to support their spouse financially. The use of “spousal support” spread to other states because it lacks the negative and confrontational connotations of the term “alimony.”

Georgia’s domestic relations laws use the term “alimony.” They were written in 1980 before the popular shift in usage to “spousal support.” 

Under Georgia law, alimony functions identically to spousal support — one party pays the other for their financial maintenance.

When Spouses Can Seek Alimony

Georgia’s statutes list three cases in which a party can seek alimony:

Divorce

A divorce dissolves a couple’s marriage. A judge can order alimony while the couple waits to finalize the divorce. This is called temporary alimony.

A judge can also order alimony in the divorce decree. This is called permanent alimony.

The judge sets the conditions for when permanent alimony ends. Georgia law specifically addresses three situations:

  • Permanent alimony ends upon remarriage of the ex-spouse receiving alimony
  • Permanent alimony ends upon the death of the ex-spouse paying alimony — although the estate might be liable for future unpaid alimony
  • In cases of separation or abandonment, permanent alimony ends if the spouses move back in together

The judge can address other situations not covered by the Georgia statutes. For example, the judge can order permanent alimony to end after a set period. Alternatively, the judge can adjust alimony if the paying spouse becomes unemployed.

Voluntary Separation

Georgia does not technically have legal separation. But if you and your spouse voluntarily live separately, you can seek alimony through a process called a maintenance action. 

In a maintenance action, you can seek spousal support and child support so that your spouse fulfills their financial obligations to you and your children.

Abandonment

The difference between voluntary separation and abandonment is that abandonment is involuntary. The abandoned spouse can seek alimony from the abandoning spouse.

Factors for Granting Alimony

Georgia law does not allow judges to grant alimony to a spouse who committed adultery or deserted the family. 

In all other cases, the judge can grant alimony if some factors are met. Georgia never requires judges to grant alimony.

Some of the factors a judge can weigh in deciding alimony include:

  • Each spouse’s financial resources
  • Each spouse’s financial needs
  • The couple’s standard of living during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s age
  • Each spouse’s physical and mental health
  • The time needed for the requesting spouse to receive training or education to get a job
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, including homemaking, caring for children, and building the other spouse’s career

The judge will weigh these factors to determine whether a party should receive alimony and the amount.

Alimony by Agreement

Spouses or ex-spouses can also agree to alimony to settle a case. In a divorce, you and your family lawyer might use collaborative divorce to negotiate a settlement with your spouse that addresses alimony.

In the case of a voluntary or involuntary separation, you can enter into a contract for alimony. But be aware that the contract will bar you from filing a lawsuit for permanent alimony. If you plan to seek permanent alimony, talk to a family lawyer before you sign anything.

For more information, call our family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to us online by visiting our contact us page today.