Types of Tennessee Spousal Support and What You Should Know About Tennessee Alimony

In general, alimony (or spousal support) are payments made from one spouse to another for financial support of the disadvantaged spouse during and following a divorce case. Tennessee alimony is awarded for many different reasons.

Types of Tennessee Spousal Support

There are four types of alimony/spousal support in Tennessee:

  • In futuro (or periodic) alimony
  • transitional alimony
  • in solido alimony
  • rehabilitative alimony

1431130_82873643These types of Tennessee alimony are awarded for different reasons:
1. In futuro or periodic alimony is normally awarded when the Court does not believe rehabilitation is necessary or possible, and the Court wishes for the disadvantaged spouse to enjoy a lifestyle similar to the lifestyle he or she enjoyed during the marriage. This type of alimony is most common in long-term marriages, and it is paid on a monthly basis until the receiving spouse remarries (or cohabitates) or dies. This type of alimony may be modified or terminated upon request of either party.

2. Rehabilitative Alimony is used to help the receiving spouse rehabilitate himself or herself through education or training. This type of Tennessee spousal support may be paid, for example, when one spouse is attending school to receive a degree, which will better that spouse’s earning potential. Such rehabilitation can enable the disadvantaged spouse to become financially independent. This type of alimony would be paid for a specified number of years, but it is also modifiable. This means, the disadvantaged spouse could request that the court extend payments if he or she needs additional time to rehabilitate. The paying spouse may also request a modification of this type of alimony.

3. Transitional Alimony is granted when rehabilitation is not necessary, but the disadvantaged spouse still needs financial help for a period of time to allow him/her to adjust to the economic consequences of divorcing. It allows the recipient spouse to transition to the status of a single person, who must maintain and establish a household without the benefit of a spouse’s income. This type of alimony is  not modifiable. Tennessee transitional alimony is awarded for a specific amount of time. It will terminate upon the death of the recipient spouse or the payor spouse unless otherwise specifically stated in the divorce decree.

4. Alimony in solido is paid in a lump sum (of either cash or property) to the disadvantaged spouse. Although it is typically paid in a lump sum, courts may order that it be paid in installments for a definite amount of time. This type of alimony may be awarded to make up for a difference in the amount of property each spouse was granted or as an award of attorney’s fees to one spouse. These alimony payments are not modifiable, and they do not terminate upon the death or remarriage of a recipient or payor spouse.

It is important to know that judges can award more than one type of alimony in any case.

Tennessee statutes recognize that judges should award more substantial amounts of spousal support so “that the economically disadvantaged spouse’s standard of living after the divorce should 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 . . . .”

How Does the Court Determine What Amount of Alimony Should be Paid?

Tennessee appellate courts recognize that the two most basic and important factors in awarding alimony are the recipient spouse’s need for alimony and the payor spouse’s ability to pay.

Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-5-121 sets forth the factors to be considered by Tennessee judges when awarding alimony. The statute states as follows:

36-5-121. Decree for support of spouse.

(a) In any action for divorce, legal separation or separate maintenance, the court may award alimony to be paid by one spouse to or for the benefit of the other, or out of either spouse’s property, according to the nature of the case and the circumstances of the parties. The court may fix some definite amount or amounts to be paid in monthly, semimonthly or weekly installments, or otherwise, as the circumstances may warrant. Such award, if not paid, may be enforced by any appropriate process of the court having jurisdiction including levy of execution. Further, the order or decree shall remain in the court’s jurisdiction and control, and, upon application of either party, the court may award an increase or decrease or other modification of the award based upon a showing of a substantial and material change of circumstances; provided, that the award is subject to modification by the court based on the type of alimony awarded, the terms of the court’s decree or the terms of the parties’ agreement.

(b) The court may, in its discretion, at any time pending the final hearing, upon motion and after notice and hearing, make any order that may be proper to compel a spouse to pay any sums necessary for the support and maintenance of the other spouse, to enable such spouse to prosecute or defend the suit of the parties and to make other orders as it deems appropriate. Further, the court may award such sum as may be necessary to enable a spouse to pay the expenses of job training and education. In making any order under this subsection (b), the court shall consider the financial needs of each spouse and the financial ability of each spouse to meet those needs and to prosecute or defend the suit.

(c) (1) Spouses have traditionally strengthened the family unit through private arrangements whereby one (1) spouse focuses on nurturing the personal side of the marriage, including the care and nurturing of the children, while the other spouse focuses primarily on building the economic strength of the family unit. This arrangement often results in economic detriment to the spouse who subordinated such spouse’s own personal career for the benefit of the marriage. It is the public policy of this state to encourage and support marriage, and to encourage family arrangements that provide for the rearing of healthy and productive children who will become healthy and productive citizens of our state.

(2) The general assembly finds that the contributions to the marriage as homemaker or parent are of equal dignity and importance as economic contributions to the marriage. Further, where one (1) spouse suffers economic detriment for the benefit of the marriage, the general assembly finds that the economically disadvantaged spouse’s standard of living after the divorce should 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, considering the relevant statutory factors and the equities between the parties.

(d) (1) The court may award rehabilitative alimony, alimony in futuro, also known as periodic alimony, transitional alimony, or alimony in solido, also known as lump sum alimony or a combination of these, as provided in this subsection (d).

(2) 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. To be rehabilitated means to achieve, with reasonable effort, an earning capacity 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, considering the relevant statutory factors and the equities between the parties.

(3) Where there is relative economic disadvantage and rehabilitation is not feasible, in consideration of all relevant factors, including those set out in subsection (i), the court may grant an order for payment of support and maintenance on a long-term basis or until death or remarriage of the recipient, except as otherwise provided in subdivision (f)(2)(B).

(4) An award of alimony in futuro may be made, either in addition to an award of rehabilitative alimony, where a spouse may be only partially rehabilitated, or instead of an award of rehabilitative alimony, where rehabilitation is not feasible. 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, legal separation or other proceeding where spousal support may be awarded, such as a petition for an order of protection.

(5) Alimony in solido may be awarded in lieu of or in addition to any other alimony award, in order to provide support, including attorney fees, where appropriate.

(e) (1) Rehabilitative alimony is a separate class of spousal support, as distinguished from alimony in solido, alimony in futuro, and transitional alimony. To be rehabilitated means to achieve, with reasonable effort, an earning capacity 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, considering the relevant statutory factors and the equities between the parties.

(2) An award of rehabilitative alimony shall remain in the court’s control for the duration of such award, and may be increased, decreased, terminated, extended, or otherwise modified, upon a showing of a substantial and material change in circumstances. For rehabilitative alimony to be extended beyond the term initially established by the court, or to be increased in amount, or both, the recipient of the rehabilitative alimony shall have the burden of proving that all reasonable efforts at rehabilitation have been made and have been unsuccessful.

(3) Rehabilitative alimony shall terminate upon the death of the recipient. Rehabilitative alimony shall also terminate upon the death of the payor, unless otherwise specifically stated.

(f) (1) Alimony in futuro, also known as periodic alimony, is a payment of support and maintenance on a long term basis or until death or remarriage of the recipient. Such alimony may be awarded when the court finds that there is relative economic disadvantage and that rehabilitation is not feasible, meaning that the disadvantaged 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, considering the relevant statutory factors and the equities between the parties.

(2) (A) An award of alimony in futuro shall remain in the court’s control for the duration of such award, and may be increased, decreased, terminated, extended, or otherwise modified, upon a showing of substantial and material change in circumstances.

(B) In all cases where a person is receiving alimony in futuro and the alimony recipient lives with a third person, a rebuttable presumption is raised that:

(i) The third person is contributing to the support of the alimony recipient and the alimony recipient does not need the amount of support previously awarded, and the court should suspend all or part of the alimony obligation of the former spouse; or

(ii) The third person is receiving support from the alimony recipient and the alimony recipient does not need the amount of alimony previously awarded and the court should suspend all or part of the alimony obligation of the former spouse.

(3) An award for alimony in futuro shall terminate automatically and unconditionally upon the death or remarriage of the recipient. The recipient shall notify the obligor immediately upon the recipient’s remarriage. Failure of the recipient to timely give notice of the remarriage shall allow the obligor to recover all amounts paid as alimony in futuro to the recipient after the recipient’s marriage. Alimony in futuro shall also terminate upon the death of the payor, unless otherwise specifically stated.

(g) (1) Transitional alimony means a sum of money payable by one (1) party to, or on behalf of, the other party for a determinate period of time. 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, legal separation or other proceeding where spousal support may be awarded, such as a petition for an order of protection.

(2) Transitional alimony shall be nonmodifiable unless:

(A) The parties otherwise agree in an agreement incorporated into the initial decree of divorce or legal separation, or order of protection;

(B) The court otherwise orders in the initial decree of divorce, legal separation or order of protection; or

(C) The alimony recipient lives with a third person, in which case a rebuttable presumption is raised that:

(i) The third person is contributing to the support of the alimony recipient and the alimony recipient does not need the amount of support previously awarded, and the court should suspend all or part of the alimony obligation of the former spouse; or

(ii) The third person is receiving support from the alimony recipient and the alimony recipient does not need the amount of alimony previously awarded and the court should suspend all or part of the alimony obligation of the former spouse.

(3) Transitional alimony shall terminate upon the death of the recipient. Transitional alimony shall also terminate upon the death of the payor, unless otherwise specifically stated in the decree.

(4) The court may provide, at the time of entry of the order to pay transitional alimony, that the transitional alimony shall terminate upon the occurrence of other conditions, including, but not limited to, the remarriage of the party receiving transitional alimony.

(h) (1) Alimony in solido, also known as lump sum alimony, is a form of long term support, the total amount of which is calculable on the date the decree is entered, but which is not designated as transitional alimony. Alimony in solido may be paid in installments; provided, that the payments are ordered over a definite period of time and the sum of the alimony to be paid is ascertainable when awarded. The purpose of this form of alimony is to provide financial support to a spouse. In addition, alimony in solido may include attorney fees, where appropriate.

(2) A final award of alimony in solido is not modifiable, except by agreement of the parties only.

(3) Alimony in solido is not terminable upon the death or remarriage of the recipient or the payor.

(i) In determining whether the granting of an order for payment of support and maintenance to a party is appropriate, and in determining the nature, amount, length of term, and manner of payment, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:

(1) The relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each party, including income from pension, profit sharing or retirement plans and all other sources;

(2) The relative education and training of each party, the ability and opportunity of each party to secure such education and training, and the necessity of a party to secure further education and training to improve such party’s earnings capacity to a reasonable level;

(3) The duration of the marriage;

(4) The age and mental condition of each party;

(5) The physical condition of each party, including, but not limited to, physical disability or incapacity due to a chronic debilitating disease;

(6) The extent to which it would be undesirable for a party to seek employment outside the home, because such party will be custodian of a minor child of the marriage;

(7) The separate assets of each party, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;

(8) The provisions made with regard to the marital property, as defined in § 36-4-121;

(9) The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;

(10) The extent to which each party has made such tangible and intangible contributions to the marriage as monetary and homemaker contributions, and tangible and intangible contributions by a party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party;

(11) The relative fault of the parties, in cases where the court, in its discretion, deems it appropriate to do so; and

(12) Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.

(j) Where the lump sum amount of retirement or pension benefits or of balances in an individual retirement account, §§ 401(k), 403(b), 457, codified in 26 U.S.C. §§ 401(k), 403(b) and 457, respectively, or any other tax qualified account has been considered by the trial court, and determined to be marital property to be divided, the distributions of such lump sum amounts necessary to complete the division of property, whether distributed in a single payment or by periodic payments, shall not be considered income for the purpose of determining a spouse or ex-spouse’s right to receive alimony or child support, but the income generated by the investment of such lump sum awards shall be considered income for such purpose.

(k) The court may direct a party to pay the premiums for insurance insuring the health care costs of the other party, in whole or in part, for such duration as the court deems appropriate.

(l) To secure the obligation of one party to pay alimony to or for the benefit of the other party, the court may direct a party to designate the other party as the beneficiary of, and to pay the premiums required to maintain, any existing policies insuring the life of a party, or to purchase and pay the premiums required to maintain such new or additional life insurance designating the other party the beneficiary of the insurance, or a combination of these, as the court deems appropriate.

(m) The order or decree of the court may provide that the payments for the support of such spouse shall be paid either to the clerk of the court or directly to the spouse, or, in Title IV-D cases, the order or decree of the court shall provide that payments shall be paid to the central collections and disbursement unit, pursuant to § 36-5-116.

(n) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the affirmation, ratification and incorporation in a decree of an agreement between the parties as to support and maintenance of a party.

(o) Any order of alimony that has been reduced to judgment shall be entitled to be enforced as any other judgment of a court of this state and shall be entitled to full faith and credit in this state and in any other state.

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