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Case Law Update: Hardigree v. Smith, 291 Ga. 239 (2012)

Publish Date: 08/21/2013

In Georgia, when distinguishing between "periodic" and "lump sum" alimony, the first difference that likely comes to mind is that periodic alimony is typically paid in monthly installments, and lump sum alimony is typically paid in one single sum of money that serves as a complete payment. However, a recent Georgia Supreme Court case has made it clear that payment schedule is not the determining factor when classifying alimony as either periodic or lump sum. Hardigree v. Smith, 291 Ga. 239 (2012).

In Hardigree, the parties were divorced pursuant to a Final Decree which incorporated a Settlement Agreement entered into by the parties. Regarding the payment of alimony, the Settlement Agreement stated that "Husband will pay to Wife monthly alimony of $2,000.00 per month for 120 consecutive months beginning on April 1, 2010." A little over a year after the alimony payments began, Wife remarried and Husband ceased his alimony payments to Wife the next month. Wife filed a contempt action against Husband for willful failure to pay the agreed upon lump sum alimony pursuant to the parties' Settlement Agreement. Husband defended his non-payment, claiming his obligation was for permanent periodic alimony as opposed to lump sum alimony, and thus his alimony payments terminated when Wife remarried. The trial court ruled in Husband's favor, and Wife appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

The Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the trial court's ruling, reiterating a previous holding that when an alimony provision states "the exact amount of each payment and the exact number of payments without other limitations, conditions or statements of intent, the obligation is one for lump sum alimony payable in installments." In Hardigree, there were no limitations or conditions (for example, remarriage or death) that terminated Husband's alimony obligation. Therefore, the "monthly installment provision was clearly a lump sum alimony award, as opposed to periodic alimony, and thus did not terminate upon [Wife's] remarriage."

Courtney H. Carpenter


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