In Tennessee, alimony is the legal obligation of one spouse to financially support the other spouse. The trial court is granted broad discretion in determining whether alimony or spousal support is required, and if so, the trial court has broad discretion in determining the nature or type of alimony, the amount of alimony, and the duration or term of support payments.
There are no clear cut rules in Tennessee which regulate the amount of alimony to be awarded, nor the type of alimony to be awarded in any particular divorce. Alimony determinations are rarely overturned or amended by the appellate courts. In Tennessee, when the appellate court is asked to review a discretionary decision by a trial court such as the award of alimony, the appellate court must presume that the decision was correct and must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the decision rendered by the trial court.
Under Tennessee law a trial court will consider multiple factors in determining the nature of alimony to be awarded; the amount of alimony to be awarded; the length of the term of payment of alimony; and the manner of payment of alimony, if any, factors which consist as follows:
- [a] the relative earning capacity, obligations and needs and financial resources of each party;
- [b] the relative education and training of each party and the ability and opportunity of each party to secure such education and training;
- [c] the duration of the marriage;
- [d] the age and mental condition of each party;
- [e] the physical condition of each party including whether either party is physically disabled or incapacitated; and
- [f] the separate assets of each party both real property and personal property
Tennessee law generally recognizes four (4) different types of alimony:  Rehabilitative Alimony;  Transitional Alimony;  Alimony In Solido;  Alimony Infuturo; each having critical distinguishable legal characteristics which must be fully understood before you agree to any divorce settlement which involves an award of alimony.
For instance, certain types of alimony are tax-deductible and conversely certain types of alimony are deemed by the IRS to be income. Certain types of alimony are nonmodifiable, meaning the obligor spouse will pay the same amount of alimony for the remainder of his/her life. Conversely, some types of alimony will terminate upon the occurrence of some contention whether it be remarriage or cohabitation by the recipient spouse.
Conversely, certain types of alimony are modifiable meaning either the obligor spouse or the obligee spouse (recipient) may subsequently petition the court to either increase or decrease the amount of alimony, terminate or possibly extend the term of alimony payment.
Unfortunately, many divorce attorneys do not fully understand the intricacies of the different types of alimony, and as a result, their clients may suffer significant financial loss. Such errors are often not discovered until the former spouse attempts to modify or terminate the alimony obligation.
Modifications of alimony capable of being modified may be granted only upon a showing of a substantial material change in circumstances since entry of the original support order. Such circumstances must have not been foreseeable, anticipated nor within the contemplation of the parties at the time of the entry of the divorce decree. To be considered “substantial” Tennessee law requires the change must significantly affect either the obligor’s ability to pay or the obligee’s need for support.
At BATSON NOLAN, PLC, we take pride in our experience and ability to provide our divorce clients with accurate and proficient legal representation in all aspects of the divorce process, particularly with regard to issues of spousal support and alimony. If you are contemplating undergoing a divorce of if you are already undergoing a divorce, we urge you to contact us so that we can help you. If you are currently receiving or paying alimony and want to discuss your legal rights, please contact us at your convenience so that we can discuss your questions and properly advise you of your legal rights.