How to Appeal or Change Your Alimony Payments in Georgia
Divorce is difficult and emotional. In the middle of this messy process, you might have agreed to alimony terms that weren’t as favorable as you would have liked. Unfortunately, due to strict guidelines under Georgia law, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to change the terms of your spousal support after the case is closed. However, there are some special circumstances in which you might be able to appeal or change your alimony payments.
Is it possible to appeal alimony payments?
A divorce decree is a binding, legal agreement, which means that you and your former spouse are legally required to follow the terms. Since it is a legal process, this also means that you can file a request to appeal the judge’s decision before a higher court. However, if both you and your spouse willfully agreed to the decree, then the appeal can be difficult and legally complicated, plus there are numerous deadlines and procedures you must follow. The court can even charge you a penalty fee or outright deny your request if they decide your appeal is frivolous.
The primary reason a judge might consider an appeal if there was a significant error during the trial. For example, if you were mentally impaired or under duress when you agreed to the decree or the financial terms were miscalculated because your former spouse concealed assets, the court might allow an appeal. If you decide to try to appeal your alimony payments, you will need an experienced alimony and spousal support attorney like those at Kessler & Solomiany, LLC to fight for you in court and help you navigate the process.
What are the reasons I could change my alimony payments?
Like an appeal, requests to modify alimony payments can also be legally complicated. However, Georgia law does provide for modifications under certain circumstances (see Georgia Code – Title 19. Domestic Relations). Alimony will typically terminate if one of the spouses dies or if the recipient of alimony payments remarries. In any other case, you will need to file a modification request with the court.
Before you decide to file a modification, review your original divorce decree to see if there are clauses that could compel payment modifications. The two most common clauses like this are:
- Escalator clause: This type of clause grants you an automatic share of increases in your former spouse’s pay (or vice versa). You might have this clause if one spouse expects a spike in income at a certain time each year, such as through an annual Christmas bonus.
- Cost of living adjustment clause: If your divorce decree included this type of clause, it means that alimony payments are supposed to increase at the same rate as the annual cost of living. The Social Security Administration has a good explanation of how to calculate this rate.
You can also ask your former spouse if they are willing to modify the alimony payments, but this agreement will not be legally enforceable unless you involve the courts. Entering this type of agreement is non-binding and can expose you to risk. It’s typically better to formally request a modification by filing a petition with the court.
Unless you specifically surrendered alimony modification in your divorce decree, alimony can be modified under Georgia law for two main reasons:
- Change in income or financial status: Several circumstances can significantly change your financial status or that of your former spouse and can be grounds for modification of alimony payments. The primary case would be if you or your former spouse loses their job or gets a new one with a much higher salary. A modification could also be considered if you or your former spouse incur a physical or mental condition that renders them unable to support themselves. Similarly, a serious illness or a catastrophic event might cause a financial emergency that would justify a modification.
- Cohabitation: If you are paying your former spouse alimony and they are openly and continuously cohabitating with a third party in a sexual or romantic relationship, you may file a request to modify alimony payments.
What is needed to file an appeal or change alimony payments?
Appeals and requests to modify alimony payments are legal cases, so you must follow certain, sometimes complicated procedures. An experienced attorney can help file your petition, gather evidence to support your case, fight for you in court, and make sure you meet all of the court’s requirements and deadlines, such as serving your former spouse with a summons and making sure they are properly notified of all court dates.
Whether you are trying to appeal or modify your alimony payments, you will need solid proof to win your case. Appeals are typically based on serious accusations, so it is critical to use an experienced attorney like those at Kessler & Solomiany, LLC to help you gather solid evidence that the court decision was based on a grievous error.
If you are filing a modification request, you will still need solid proof to win your case. If your petition is based on a change in financial circumstances, this change must be significant. You will need to show documents, such as financial statements, pay stubs, tax returns, or even medical records and doctor reports to show the need for a change in financial support, your inability to pay, or your former spouse’s ability to pay.
When you are asking for a modification based on cohabitation, you will need to prove that the relationship is continuous and intimate – not just an occasional sleepover or a platonic roommate situation. Proving that your former spouse is having sex with someone can be difficult to prove. Evidence that would support this type of case might include witness accounts, photographs, phone records, or videos, but you must follow the law when you are gathering evidence. Having a skilled family law attorney can be crucial in getting this type of proof in a legal fashion.
If you are trying to appeal or modify alimony payments, it is crucial that you hire a skilled family law firm like Kessler & Solomiany, LLC, who can help you gather the evidence you need and help you successfully navigate the complex court procedures. Call us today at (404) 688-8810 to schedule an initial consultation.