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What’s the Difference Between Alimony vs. Spousal Support?

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What’s the Difference Between Alimony vs. Spousal Support?

There is no difference between alimony and spousal support. The terms are often used interchangeably, and both refer to financial support paid to one spouse by the other spouse.

These payments can occur during a separation or divorce proceeding and can continue after the divorce is finalized. 

Overview of Alimony/Spousal Support in Georgia 

What’s the Difference Between Alimony vs. Spousal Support?

Georgia domestic relations laws were written with the word “alimony” to represent financial maintenance. The term “spousal support” is becoming more popular because “alimony” is thought to have a gender-specific meaning. Most people associate alimony with payments made from a husband to a wife.

Spousal support is gender-neutral. It can be used to describe payments from a husband to a wife or from a wife to a husband. Therefore, it does not create a presumption that wives should always be the spouse who receives spousal support payments when a couple divorces. 

Georgia law recognizes the right of either spouse to receive alimony payments. Either party may seek spousal support if they file for divorce, a voluntary separate maintenance action, or abandonment. The spouse seeking financial support has the burden of proving the need for alimony payments. 

What Factors Do Judges Consider When Deciding Alimony Issues in Georgia?

Courts can grant alimony in most divorce cases. However, Georgia domestic relations laws do not permit judges to award alimony payments to a spouse who committed adultery or abandoned the family. In other cases, the judge considers the facts of the case when deciding whether to award spousal support.

Factors judges consider when deciding spousal support issues are outlined in Georgia Code §19-6-5

Those factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The financial resources of each spouse
  • The financial needs of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s age, physical health, and mental condition
  • The standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The contributions of both spouses to the marriage, including contributions to the other spouse’s career, homemaking, and childcare
  • The time a spouse needs to receive training and education to enhance earning potential

The judge uses these and other factors they deem relevant to decide if alimony should be awarded. If so, the judge determines the amount and duration of the alimony payments.

What Are the Basic Types of Alimony Awarded in Georgia?

Judges can choose which type of spousal support to award based on the facts of the case. The types of alimony a judge can order in a divorce case include:

Temporary Alimony

The court uses temporary spousal support to assist a spouse financially during separation or divorce proceedings. The judge may grant temporary alimony at the first hearing. This support continues until the judge modifies the order or issues a final divorce decree.

Temporary spousal support is provided so a spouse can support themselves while the divorce terms are negotiated or litigated. Often, a spouse who has not worked during the marriage or earns a lower income needs financial assistance while asset division, child custody, and final support issues are addressed. 

Periodic Alimony

Judges often award periodic spousal support to allow spouses the time they need to gain financial independence. The payments continue for a specific time. The time varies based on the circumstances of the case.

Periodic alimony might be awarded while a spouse goes to college to obtain a degree or receives additional job training. The goal is to help a spouse meet their financial obligations during the time they need to gain the skills to become self-reliant. 

Lump Sum Alimony 

A judge may order a party to make a one-time payment to the other party as lump-sum spousal support. The payment could be to pay marital debts or purchase an interest in the marital home. Instead of cash, the lump-sum payment could be property or marital assets.

Permanent Alimony 

Judges have the authority to grant permanent spousal support payments. The payments continue until the spouse receiving payments remarries or one of the spouses dies. Generally, permanent alimony is reserved for long-term marriages or marriages where a spouse spends most of the marriage as the homemaker and primary childcare provider. 

Modifying Alimony in Georgia

Alimony payments can be modified – even permanent alimony. However, you must prove to the court that a substantial change in circumstances justifies modifying alimony payments.

Examples of a substantial change in circumstance could include:

  • A spouse receiving alimony cohabits with a romantic partner for an extended period or remarries
  • A paying spouse becomes disabled 
  • The retirement of the paying spouse
  • The paying spouse becomes unemployed involuntarily 
  • The paying spouse is seriously injured or develops a serious health condition
  • Catastrophic events, such as caring for a disabled child or being the victim of a natural disaster 

Judges decide modification cases based on the merits of the case. Hiring an experienced Douglasville alimony attorney gives you the best chance of presenting a convincing case.

Spouses Can Enter Voluntary Alimony Agreements 

You and your spouse can negotiate a settlement for spousal support. Negotiated spousal support agreements often reflect better terms for both spouses. A judge only knows what is presented in court, so the court’s order might not be the best outcome for the parties.

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements also impact alimony or spousal support during divorces. If the parties negotiated the terms for alimony as part of a marital agreement, the court can enforce those terms during a divorce action. 

What Should I Know About Alimony Payments in Georgia?

In Georgia, alimony or spousal support is not a right. The court must determine whether the circumstances justify spousal support. The evidence you present in court determines whether you receive or pay alimony.

If the court grants alimony, it can be enforced through contempt actions, garnishments, or executions on property. Therefore, you need to be aware of your rights and obligations regarding alimony payments.

The decision in your case could come down to the legal representation you have for your divorce. Hiring an experienced Douglasville divorce lawyer could make a difference in the outcome of your case. Attorneys with extensive experience handling alimony cases in Douglasville understand the courts and what judges consider when deciding cases. 

Schedule a Consultation With Our Douglasville Alimony Lawyers

The correct amount of spousal support can make a huge difference in your finances. If you have questions about alimony payments in Georgia, contact our office at (470) 308-5409 for a case evaluation with an experienced Douglasville divorce attorney from Bardley McKnight Law LLC.

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