You could increase or decrease alimony in Georgia under certain circumstances. A former spouse may be ordered to pay alimony to the other former spouse. What if the paying spouse’s financial circumstances change? For example, if the paying spouse becomes severely ill due to COVID and cannot keep his or her job, could that spouse ask the court to decrease the amount of alimony he or she has to pay?

Under certain circumstances, alimony in Georgia may be modified by the court.

Does alimony in Georgia change if income changes? Does alimony become decreased when you lose your job?

When there is a change in the income and financial status of either ex-spouse, a petition may be filed requesting modification of permanent periodic alimony. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-19(a). Under Georgia alimony laws, this means that a change in the paying spouse’s ability to pay, which may result from a change in income or financial status, is only required. Williams v. Williams, 268 Ga. 126 (1997). Thus, an involuntary job loss may be grounds for filing a petition for modification of alimony. However, an increase in the value of an asset allocated to an ex-spouse in an equitable division of marital property, without more, is not considered a change in financial status justifying modification of alimony. Williams v. Williams, 268 Ga. 126 (1997).

The purpose of a modification of alimony action is to determine whether the existing amount of alimony comports with the current financial circumstances of the parties. Thus, a modification of alimony action cannot be based on speculative circumstances. Temples v. Temples, 262 Ga. 779 (1993).

Does cohabitation affect alimony in Georgia?

Yes, an ex-spouse’s cohabitation with a third party may affect alimony in that the cohabitation may be grounds for modification of alimony.

Georgia’s “live-in lover” law (O.C.G.A. § 19-6-19(b)) states:

“Subsequent to a final judgment of divorce awarding periodic payment of alimony for the support of a spouse, the voluntary cohabitation of such former spouse with a third party in a meretricious relationship shall also be grounds to modify provisions made for periodic payments of permanent alimony for the support of the former spouse. As used in this subsection, the word “cohabitation” means dwelling together continuously and openly in a meretricious relationship with another person, regardless of the sex of the other person.”

Dwelling together continuously and openly in a relationship similar to marriage includes ‘either sexual intercourse or the sharing of living expenses.’” Provenzano v. Jones, 805 S.E.2d 999 (Ga. 2017).

Can you increase or decrease any type of alimony in Georgia?

No, not all types of alimony can be modified. Lump sum alimony may not be modified. Rivera v. Rivera, 283 Ga. 547 (2008). For example, a decree ordering periodic payments to be made until a given sum (i.e., a specific amount) has been paid is not revisable. Rivera v. Rivera, 283 Ga. 547 (2008).

Further, under Georgia alimony laws, alimony may be modified under O.C.G.A. § 19-6-19(a) only by increasing or decreasing the amount of the payments. Temples v. Temples, 262 Ga. 779 (1993). Thus, alimony modification under O.C.G.A. § 19-6-19(a) may not change the duration of the alimony payments. However, “where the financial circumstances of the parties so warrant, it is not error in a modification action for the amount of alimony payments to be lowered to $0.00.” Temples v. Temples, 262 Ga. 779 (1993).

Can modification of alimony in Georgia be waived?

Yes, under certain circumstances, modification of alimony for the support of the other spouse may be waived. Thus, the parties to an alimony agreement may expressly waive the right of modification by referring specifically to that right; however, the right to modification may be waived by agreement of the parties only in very clear waiver language which refers to the right of modification. Varn v. Varn, 242 Ga. 309 (1978).  

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