At Bivek Brubaker & Prescott, we regularly speak with clients who are remarrying. They come with a diverse range of concerns – some are interested in creating prenuptial agreements, others wonder how the new marriage could affect custody arrangements, and some have questions about the possibility of adoption in their new, blended families.
Most, however, wonder how the remarriage will affect alimony payments, if it will affect them at all. An alimony lawyer can answer these questions, as well as help draft a settlement agreement that clearly defines alimony obligations in the first place. Here is what you need to know about how remarriage can affect alimony.
For many divorcing couples, remarriage isn’t even a factor when it comes to alimony because alimony obligations have ended at the date of the remarriage. Additionally, some recipients of alimony receive lump-sum alimony, and an award of lump-sum alimony is not subject to termination under Georgia law. (See Weaver v. Dutton, 232 Ga. 832 (1974).)
An award of periodic or permanent alimony, however, is subject to termination for various reasons under the law, including the remarriage of the receiving spouse. According to O.C.G.A. 19-6-5(b), “all obligations for permanent alimony, however created, the time for performance of which has not arrived, shall terminate upon remarriage of the party to whom the obligations are owed unless otherwise provided.” In simpler terms, if the recipient spouse remarries, he or she is no longer entitled to alimony.
One exception is if the divorce decree or settlement agreement that creates the alimony obligation specifically provides for the continuance of alimony upon the remarriage of the recipient spouse, then alimony will continue. (See Crosby v. Tomlinson, 263 GA. 522 (1993).) If the settlement agreement or decree that creates the obligation is silent as to what happens during remarriage, then the periodic or permanent alimony obligation terminates upon the remarriage of the receiving spouse. In Georgia, only the remarriage of the receiving spouse terminates periodic or permanent alimony. The marriage of the paying spouse does not terminate the obligation.
Cohabitation is not the same as marriage. In Georgia, the voluntary cohabitation of the former spouse who is receiving alimony is grounds for the modification of alimony payments. In fact, if you can prove cohabitation, alimony payments typically cease altogether, unless the parties specifically contract otherwise in their settlement agreement. The basic logic is that the spouse paying alimony should not have to support the spouse receiving it if that spouse is being supported by another person. Similarly, the spouse paying the alimony should not have to support a stranger. The exact meaning of cohabitation falls into a grey area, however. Georgia law (OCGA § 19-6-19) states that “the word ‘cohabitation’ means dwelling together continuously and openly in a meretricious relationship with another person, regardless of the sex of the other person.”
Unlike alimony, child support terms are unchanged by the act of remarriage alone. For the parent paying child support, the new spouse isn’t legally required to help support the children of his or her spouse. The income of the new spouse is not a factor in calculating child support between the former spouses, as only the combined incomes of the parents of the child or children are taken into consideration when determining child support. A new marriage alone also does not affect the terms of child support for the person receiving child support.
Alimony awards are ultimately up to the judge, but it’s important to understand your own agreement and its terms on remarriage. The alimony attorneys at Bivek Brubaker & Prescott can advise you on your alimony agreement and help you understand your obligations. Contact us today by calling (866) 527-2630.