Georgia alimony law traditional with some unique aspects

In most aspects, the Peach State gives courts wide discretion to fashion spousal support awards.

Georgia alimony law has not been affected so far by a recent national reform movement that has resulted in major changes in some other states. In fact, most of the alimony provisions in Georgia statutes have not been amended since the late 1970s or early 1980s. Georgia courts continue to have wide discretion to fashion the terms of alimony awards free from preset formulas.

Georgia defines alimony as an "allowance out of one party's estate, made for the support of the other party when living separately ... in accordance with the needs of the party and the ability of the other to pay." Alimony may be granted in a divorce, when the parties are living apart or when one party was either abandoned or forced out of the home by the other. It can either be temporary (during the court proceedings) or permanent (as part of the final order to be paid after the court proceedings are closed).

As a practical matter, often a divorcing couple is able to negotiate an agreement that includes the terms of an alimony arrangement, but if no settlement is reached, the court must decide whether it should be ordered and what the award should look like.

Alimony may not be granted if the person seeking it was responsible for the marital separation because of adultery or desertion. The court must consider the reason for the separation of the parties as well as "the conduct of each party toward the other" in an alimony determination.

It is noteworthy for a state to require the judge to consider adultery and other bad marital behavior in an alimony determination. Some states even forbid consideration of marital fault.

The Georgia court is to consider these factors to determine the amount of an alimony award:

  • Marital standard of living
  • Marriage duration
  • Parties' age and "physical and emotional condition"
  • Parties' financial resources
  • Time required for either spouse to get needed education or training to find "appropriate" employment
  • Parties' contributions to the marriage, including, but not limited to, "homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party"
  • Parties' conditions concerning money, assets, earning capacity and liabilities
  • Other relevant factors that are "equitable and proper" for consideration

Unless the court order or settlement agreement provides otherwise, permanent alimony will end if the recipient remarries. Another potential basis for modification of an alimony award is continuous and open cohabitation by the alimony recipient with a new partner, unless the court order or agreement provides otherwise.

Any Georgian facing divorce or separation should speak with legal counsel for advice, guidance and representation. A divorce agreement or court order can have major impact on the rest of a spouse's life, so going into the proceedings prepared is crucial.

The Gainesville attorneys of The Roberts Law Firm, P.C., represent clients throughout the Gainesville metropolitan area in matters, including divorce issues like alimony, child custody and support, property division and others.