Alimony can be a controversial topic. No one likes the idea of paying money to an ex, and many people don’t like being financially dependent on an ex. However, alimony is often the best way to avoid an injustice, and it can be a lifesaver for many people getting out of a bad marriage.
If you have resigned yourself to the thought that alimony will be a part of your divorce, one of the next questions you have may be about how long the alimony order will last.
Georgia law recognizes both “short-term” and “permanent” alimony, but the names can be somewhat deceiving.
Short-term alimony is typically meant to help a financially disadvantaged spouse just until they are able to become financially independent.
For example, imagine a marriage in which Luke and Laura meet and get married while they are both in medical school. They have a child and Laura decides to drop out of school in order to take care of their child full-time.
Years later, they decide to divorce. At this point, Luke is earning a good salary as a physician, but Laura hasn’t worked outside of the home in years. Even after a generous divorce settlement, she will be at a financial disadvantage, and won’t be able to afford anything like the lifestyle she enjoyed during the marriage.
Short-term alimony can help provide Laura with income until she can become financially independent. She may have to return to medical school or pursue some other training. While the name suggests it only applies for a short period, in fact the duration of the alimony order may be tied to graduation from school, or some other benchmark rather than to a specific time period.
This is the most common form of alimony.
Permanent alimony is much more rare. It usually applies to situations in which the financially dependent spouse is unable to work due to age, illness or other condition.
Again, the name can be somewhat misleading. A permanent alimony award does not necessarily last for the rest of the recipient’s life. Other factors may end the order, such as the paying spouse’s retirement or the receiving spouse’s remarriage.