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Alimony Modifications

Can Alimony be Reduced/Increased After Divorce?

One common question we are often asked is if alimony can be changed after the final order comes down in a divorce. The answer is yes. Georgia law allows the modification of alimony for two reasons:

  1. Based on a change in the income or financial status of either former spouse; or
  2. Where the former spouse who receives alimony is voluntarily cohabitating - openly and continuously - with a third party in a sexual or romantic relationship.

If one of the two situations above takes place, you may file a petition to modify alimony. It is important to make sure you support your petition with evidence of the change in income or financial status or evidence of the romantic cohabitation. The latter situation is referred to as the "live in lover" law. The "live in lover" law essentially means that if the receiving souse is living with a third party and engaging in a sexual relationship with that third party, the paying spouse may request a downward modification of alimony payments.

The Alimony Modification Process 

Filing the Petition for Modification of Alimony

What are the Requirements for Alimony Modification?

What Evidence do I need to Present?

Filing the Petition for Modification of Alimony

The amount of alimony paid or received can be modified by filing a petition for the modification of alimony. A modification of alimony petition seeks a reduction or increase in the amount of alimony paid by one former spouse to the other. A modification of alimony petition can be filed by either party. It is not limited to the party paying alimony.

What are the Requirements for Alimony Modification?

Georgia law permits a modification of the previously ordered alimony amount for two main reasons:

  1. Upon the petition of one of the former spouses, based on a change in the income or financial status of either former spouse;
  2. Upon the petition of one of the former spouses (normally the paying spouse), where the former spouse who receives alimony is voluntarily cohabitating - openly and continuously - with a third party in a sexual or romantic relationship.

You do not need to allege both of these reasons in your petition. You must allege one or the other and you must be prepared to present evidence showing the requisite change or cohabitation.

What Evidence do I need to Present?

Once your petition is filed and served onto the opposing party, the court may set a date for a hearing on the alimony modification. During this time, it is important for the requesting party to put forth evidence showing that there has been the required change in the income and financial status of the obligated spouse. Or, if alleged in the petition, that the receiving spouse is voluntarily cohabiting as required by the "live in lover law" discussed more below and also here. Regarding a change in the income and financial status of the paying spouse, the judge presiding over the matter may consider the following, among other factors, to determine if the necessary change in circumstance has occurred:

  • Changes in the obligated spouses net income;
  • Changes in the fixed debts or obligations of the obligated spouse;
  • The obligated spouses personal living expenses.
Live in lover and alimony modifications.

“Live in Lover Law” & Alimony Modifications

The "live in lover" law in Georgia is one of the recognized grounds for modification of alimony. In Georgia, if there is voluntary cohabitation of the party receiving alimony with a third party in a meretricious relationship, then such cohabitation shall be grounds to modify provisions made for periodic payments of permanent alimony for the support of the former spouse. The statute goes on to define the word "cohabitation" as dwelling together continuously and openly in a meretricious relationship with another person, regardless of the sex of the other person. Essentially, this means that if the receiving spouse is living with a third party and engaging in a sexual relationship with that third party, the paying spouse may request a downward modification of alimony payments.


Attorney fees in alimony modification case.

Getting Attorney’s Fees in Alimony Modifications

In alimony or spousal support modification cases, the court presiding over the matter may award attorney's fees, court costs and other expenses of litigation to the party who ultimately prevails in the matter. Note that the award of attorney's fees is within the discretion of the presiding judge, which means that the judge will award attorney's fees if the interests of justice require such an award. Keep in mind that In some alimony modification cases, the judge may decide to order the paying spouse to pay the legal fees of the receiving spouse. If the alimony modification action is filed or initiated by the obligated or paying spouse, the judge may require the obligated spouse to pay the attorneys' fees, or the reasonable expenses of litigation incurred by the recipient spouse, who is forced to defend against the alimony modification action.

Additional Resources

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