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In Georgia, a court may order one spouse to make alimony payments to the other spouse during the pendency of the divorce. These alimony payments are called temporary alimony or alimony pendente lite (pending the suit). This type of alimony is awarded when the parties are separated, but the divorce is not final. Alimony may be continued under a different label after the divorce is final. The purpose of temporary alimony is to allow a spouse that may be financially dependent on the other spouse the financial ability to pursue the divorce action to its completion and take care of expenses incident to the parties’ separation. O.C.G.A. §§ 19-6-1, 19-6-3, 19-6-14.
Practice Pointer - If I get Temporary Alimony, Will I get Alimony after the Divorce?
Once the divorce is final, a court may order that alimony continue; however, an order of temporary alimony does not guarantee that the recipient will ultimately receive permanent alimony.
Temporary alimony differs from permanent alimony in that it only lasts from the time the parties are separated until the time the final decree of divorce is entered. It is designed to meet the needs of the recipient spouse during the pendency of litigation while permanent alimony is meant to satisfy the needs of the recipient spouse after the divorce is finalized.
Temporary alimony may also include attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation.
Typically, temporary alimony takes the form of cash payments. However, temporary alimony may also take the form of a requirement that the obligated spouse pay certain debts of the recipient spouse, like mortgage payments, utility bills and medical expenses. Hewlett v. Hewlett, 220 Ga. 656 (1965). Additionally, temporary alimony may include a temporary award of the use and possession of the marital home to the recipient spouse. Orders granting temporary possession of the marital home to one spouse, to the exclusion of the other, are normally entered in situations where the recipient spouse has also received temporary custody of the children. Butler v. Hicks, 229 Ga. 72 (1972); Collier v. Collier, 228 Ga. 38 (1971).
Temporary alimony may only be awarded via a court order entered after the requesting party makes a motion to the court requesting such temporary relief. Normally, these motions take the form of prayers for relief in either the complaint for divorce or the answer to the divorce complaint. Wilbanks v. Wilbanks, 238 Ga. 660 (1977). Upon application by one party for temporary alimony, the court will order that a temporary hearing occur where the parties may put forth evidence regarding why temporary alimony should or should not be granted.
In order to establish a valid claim for temporary alimony the requesting party must provide evidence establishing the following elements:
- A valid marriage exists between the parties;
- The parties are currently living in a bona fide state of separation either voluntarily or as the result of misconduct on the part of one spouse sufficient to justify a divorce. If the separation was caused by the misconduct of the spouse requesting the temporary alimony, that spouse will be barred from obtaining an award of temporary alimony;
- The claim for temporary alimony is incidental to a pending action for divorce or suit for separate maintenance brought by either party;
- The husband and wife contest certain issues concerning the pending divorce. It is necessary for contested issues between the husband and wife to exist as the primary purpose of temporary alimony is to allow the recipient spouse the means to contest the issues of the divorce.
See O.C.G.A. §§19-6-3, 19-6-14; Brady Supra.
Once the above elements have been satisfactorily proven, the court will then hear evidence concerning the requesting spouse’s needs and the ability of the other spouse to pay temporary alimony. O.C.G.A. §19-6-3. A temporary hearing is necessary because in Georgia a trial court may not base its decision to award temporary alimony on anything other than evidence presented at a temporary hearing. Alford v. Alford, 190 Ga. 562 (1940). If the separate estate of the requesting party is as substantial as the separate estate of the other spouse, a court may deny the request for temporary alimony. However, the court is not obligated to deny such a request. Generally, if a party is able to support himself independently, he is expected to do so. But it is within the court’s discretion to award temporary alimony even if the requesting spouse has the ability to contribute to his own support. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-3; Gardner v. Gardner, 54 Ga. 559 (1875). In addition to analyzing the spouses’ incomes or income capabilities, other factors are also analyzed to determine the appropriate amount of temporary alimony. These factors mirror the factors used to determine the amount of permanent alimony.
For a further discussion of these factors, see our section entitled Permanent Alimony.