In Tennessee, alimony is also known as spousal support, which is different and paid separately from child support. Courts sometimes order that one party financially support the other during the divorce proceedings and often for a period of time after the parties’ divorce. Once a divorce is filed by a spouse, either party can request that the court order spousal support. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-5-121 sets forth factors the court will consider when determining the amount of alimony to be awarded:

  • Each spouse’s earning capacity
  • Financial obligations, needs and resources of each spouse
  • Length of the marriage
  • Age and mental condition of each spouse
  • How the marital property was divided
  • Separate assets of each spouse
  • Physical health of each spouse
  • Standard of living established while the parties were married
  • Fault of each party in the divorce
  • Tax consequences of different types of alimony
  • The need for a custodian for any minor children

Courts are especially sensitive to the paying spouse’s ability to pay and the recipient spouse’s financial need. A party’s financial needs will be partly determined by his or her earning capacity. To determine an individual’s earning capacity, courts will look to that person’s education, training, and employment history. The Court will also consider the standard of living the parties enjoyed during their marriage.

Parties may agree to the amount and duration of spousal support in a Marital Dissolution Agreement, if they are able to resolve this and other property issues. However, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the judge will determine whether alimony should be paid, how much should be paid each month and for how long.

In Tennessee, there are 4 types of alimony: alimony in futuro, rehabilitative alimony, transitional alimony and alimony in solido. Courts may award one or more types of alimony in a case.

Alimony in futuro

This type of alimony is also known as “periodic alimony” and is the kind with which most people are familiar. Alimony in futuro is paid on a monthly basis, at a set amount, and it is paid until the recipient spouse dies or remarries. In Tennessee, cohabitation might also terminate this type of alimony. Due to the length of this type of alimony, Courts are increasingly reluctant to award this alimony in futuro absent a lengthy marriage and a spouse that has been continually financially disadvantaged in comparison to the other. The Court must also find that rehabilitation of the disadvantaged spouse is not feasible, meaning that spouse is unable to achieve, with reasonable effort, an earning capacity that will permit the spouse’s standard of living after the divorce to be reasonably comparable to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, or to the post-divorce standard of living expected to be available to the other spouse.

Rehabilitative alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is preferred in Tennessee. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-5-121 states that, “It is the intent of the general assembly that a spouse, who is economically disadvantaged relative to the other spouse, be rehabilitated, whenever possible, by the granting of an order for payment of rehabilitative alimony. That will permit the economically disadvantaged spouse’s standard of living after the divorce to be reasonably comparable to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, or to the post-divorce standard of living expected to be available to the other spouse.”

This type of alimony may be awarded on a monthly basis for a length of time that is sufficient for the recipient spouse to reenter the work force and become self-sufficient. The recipient spouse may be granted time to search for a job or even go back to school to obtain a degree, which increases the recipient spouse’s earning capacity.

This type of alimony can be especially useful in situations where one spouse has set their career aside to support the other spouse’s career or to stay home and care for children. In these cases, the financially disadvantaged spouse may receive alimony while they obtain career training or attend school. Rehabilitative alimony can be extended if the recipient proves to the court that he or she has made reasonable efforts toward becoming rehabilitated but has been unsuccessful, through no fault of their own.

Transitional alimony

In Tennessee, transitional alimony is awarded when the court finds that rehabilitation is not necessary, but the economically disadvantaged spouse needs assistance to adjust to the economic consequences of a divorce or legal separation. Transitional alimony is paid to the recipient spouse for a set amount of time, allowing for the recipient to make a transition from being married to being single. Typically, transitional alimony is paid only for a short period of time, allowing a spouse that has the ability to find a job to search for employment, to relocate or to find childcare.

Alimony in solido

Alimony in solido is ordered as a set amount of alimony. This may be paid in one lump sum payment or in several installment payments, but the alimony will cease when the full amount has been paid. Alimony in solido may be awarded in lieu of or in addition to any other alimony award, and it is often used to provide support, including attorney fees, where appropriate.

In General

Each type of alimony has different tax consequences to both parties, and alimony is sometimes modifiable. To determine whether you might be able to modify your alimony obligation or increase or lengthen the alimony payments you are receiving, contact Castles Family Law for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.

Ms. Castles has helped clients in the Nashville area, including Brentwood, Spring Hill, Gallatin, Nashville, Murfreesboro and Smyrna negotiate divorce settlements that provide for the support of a spouse. Going through a divorce is an extremely emotional process and one of the most difficult experiences anyone can face. You need an experienced, caring divorce attorney to help you through this process and to make sure your financial needs are met following a divorce.

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