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Spousal Support (Alimony)

When you go through a divorce, one of your biggest concerns will be alimony or spousal support. Alimony is an amount of money awarded by the court to be paid by one spouse to the spouse who is economically disadvantaged in the marriage. Tennessee law goes out of its way to recognize the contribution of both spouses to the marriage. This means that both financial contributions and contributions to the care of children and the home will be recognized by the courts.

Tennessee law recognizes four types of alimony: in futuro; in solido; rehabilitative, transitional. Judges can award the party receiving alimony more than one type. Parties can also negotiate the types of alimony that will be paid in their case.

In Futuro

Alimony in futuro, also known as periodic alimony, is a payment of support and maintenance on a long-term basis until death or remarriage of the spouse receiving alimony. This type of alimony will typically be awarded when the court finds that one spouse is so economically disadvantaged that the disadvantaged spouse would be unable to achieve a standard of living comparable with the standard enjoyed during the marriage with reasonable effort. In futuro is often awarded in long-term marriages where one spouse has been the caretaker for the family and the other has made the majority of financial contributions throughout the marriage. For instance, consider a couple who has been married for 30 years. The wife has been a homemaker and the husband has worked during the marriage and has had a successful career. No matter what job the Wife could get, she would not be able to achieve the same standard of living she had during the marriage. Alimony in futuro might be appropriate in this case.

In Solido

Also known as “lump sum” alimony, this is a form of long-term support where one spouse pays the other in larger installments. This is meant to be financial support for the other spouse and sometimes includes attorney’s fees. This type of alimony may be awarded when the spouse whose economic outlook is better has more property than cash or the parties do not want to have to communicate for a long period of time. In these cases, the spouse paying alimony might pay one large amount or two or more installment payments.

Rehabilitative

Rehabilitative alimony is awarded when the other spouse can achieve, with reasonable effort, an earning capacity that will make their standard of living after the divorce comparable with the standard of living enjoyed during the divorce. This means that if the spouse with less earning power can become financially successful with some short-term assistance from the spouse with more earning power, rehabilitative alimony may be appropriate. Consider a situation where one spouse will need to go back to school, re-establish a professional license, or get back in the workforce to be able to financially support themselves. In that case, the court would consider an award of rehabilitative alimony.

Transitional

Transitional alimony is a sum of money payable to the economically disadvantaged spouse for a certain period of time. It is awarded when the court finds that rehabilitation is not necessary, but that the economically disadvantaged spouse will need time and help to adjust to the economic impact of a divorce. An example of this would be when the parties have had a shorter-term marriage and one spouse makes less than the other. To bounce back from the divorce, the economically disadvantaged spouse might need enough money to cover rent payments for a year or two. In that case, a court might award transitional alimony.

Let’s say your case doesn’t fall neatly into just one of these categories. In this case the court might award more than one type of alimony that fits your specific case’s facts better than one type alone. When judges have to decide what type and how much alimony to award, they must evaluate a list of factors specifically laid out in Tennessee statutes. The factors cover a wide range of characteristics in each marriage and include:

  • The “earning capacity” or ability to make money, financial obligations, needs, and financial resources of each spouse;
  • The education and job training each spouse has;
  • Length (in years) of the marriage;
  • Age and mental condition of each spouse;
  • Physical condition of each spouse;
  • Extent to which is it feasible and reasonable for each party to work outside the home (generally a factor to be weighed when the parties have children);
  • The separate assets each spouse has;
  • The division of marital assets;
  • The standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage;
  • Contributions, both monetary and intangible, made by each spouse to the marriage and contributions made by one spouse that contributed to the education or increased earning power of the other party;
  • Fault of each spouse;
  • Tax consequences to each spouse and other factors the court finds necessary.

Alimony can be modified or terminated if you or your ex-spouse has undergone a substantial change in circumstances since the court entered an order for alimony. Life events such as re-marriage, moving in with someone, the loss of income, and disability can all be grounds for alimony modification or termination. If you are experiencing any of these changes after an alimony order has been issued in your case, you should reach out to our Nashville divorce attorney for an evaluation of your case.

Our office’s dedicated divorce attorney can guide you through issues related to alimony and other challenges you will encounter going through a divorce. If you are in the process of getting a divorce or are considering a divorce contact our office by phone at (615) 475-7041, email a request for consulation to info@thecassellfirm.com, or fill out our “Contact Us” form.