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Is Permanent Alimony Really Permanent in Georgia?
No, not necessarily. In fact, the title "permanent alimony" may be a tad misleading. According to Georgia law, alimony is defined as "an allowance out of one party’s estate, made for the support of the other party when living separately. It is either temporary or permanent." O.C.G.A. § 19-6-1. This is where the title permanent is derived from. Essentially, the title is to differentiate it from temporary alimony. It does not necessarily mean that permanent alimony endures for the lifetime of the recipient spouse. In fact, alimony may be ordered by the presiding court to last for the lifetime of the recipient spouse, or it may be ordered to endure for a specific number of years, such as 5 or 10 years.
As Georgia divorce attorneys, we have noticed the recent trend is for Georgia courts not to order lifetime alimony, but to order alimony to endure for a number of years, usually in descending increments. For example, if a court orders 4 years of alimony, the court may order the obligated spouse to pay $1,000 per month for the first two years, $750 per month for the third year, and $500 per month for the last year. Although lifetime alimony is rare, it is still a possibility. But, even in situations where lifetime alimony is ordered, there are still circumstances under which permanent or lifetime alimony may be terminated. These circumstances include:
- The death of either spouse
- The remarriage of the recipient spouse
- The cohabitation of the recipient spouse with a third party in a meretricious or romantic relationship
See O.C.G.A. §§ 19-6-5(b), 19-6-7 and 19-6-19(b).