When divorcing spouses are in significantly different financial positions after the marriage ends, a court may order the wealthier spouse to provide the dependent spouse with financial assistance, called alimony. If the supported spouse remarries or begins living with another person, however, the paying spouse will usually want to stop paying alimony.
This article explains how the remarriage or cohabitation of a supported spouse affects alimony under Georgia law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony in Georgia after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
In many marriages, one spouse is responsible for earning income, while the other spouse takes care of the household or children. When the couple divorces, Georgia courts may order the higher-earning spouse to pay alimony to the lower-earning spouse to cover reasonable needs. There are several types of alimony, which can come in the form of regular payments (“periodic alimony”), a lump-sum payment, or a transfer of property.
Georgia courts may consider several factors when setting an alimony amount, including:
The paying spouse’s obligation to make alimony payments ends when the supported spouse gets remarried. In Georgia, the paying spouse doesn’t have to obtain a separate court order ending alimony and can simply stop making spousal support payments on the day the receiving spouse gets remarried. An exception applies if the couple’s divorce decree specifically states that the paying spouse will continue to pay alimony even after the supported spouse remarries. However, this type of provision is rare in Georgia divorce agreements.
The paying spouse must still pay any alimony that is already owed as of the date of the supported spouse’s remarriage. Also, remarriage won't terminate alimony that is in the form of a lump-sum payment or a transfer of property—these payments must still be made.
If either spouse’s financial circumstances have changed, one may file a motion asking the court to terminate or modify alimony. For example, if an ex-husband is paying alimony to an ex-wife who is now earning more income than he is, he has grounds to ask the court to terminate alimony. In some cases, the court may consider raising the amount of alimony for a supported spouse whose financial situation has worsened.
You will need to file a motion to modify or terminate alimony in the superior court clerk’s office for your county. You will receive a court date, when you will appear before a judge and be expected to show evidence of the changed circumstances that warrant the change in alimony you are requesting.
If you and your ex-spouse can come to an agreement to terminate or modify alimony, you can do so without having to attend a hearing. You should put your agreement regarding alimony in writing, sign it, and have it filed with the superior court clerk’s office.
Cohabitation does not automatically terminate spousal support in Georgia. If a supported spouse begins cohabiting with a new partner after the divorce, the court may modify alimony, by reducing or terminating it, but it's not automatic. Cohabitation means that two people are living together continuously, in a romantic relationship. Simply having a periodic physical or dating relationship with another person does not count as cohabitation—the two people must reside together in a manner similar to a marriage.
When a supported spouse begins cohabiting with another person, the paying spouse will need to file a motion to terminate alimony with the county superior court clerk’s office. At the hearing, the paying spouse should be prepared to show evidence of the cohabitation. If the supported spouse’s financial situation has not improved as a result of cohabitation, the court may refuse to terminate alimony. In most cases, however, alimony will end when the supported spouse moves in with a new partner.
The court also has the power to reduce or terminate alimony retroactively, to the date the cohabitation began. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact a Georgia family law attorney for help.