Dedicated Clarksville Alimony Attorneys Ready To Help You
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.
1. Rehabilitative Alimony
Tennessee’s alimony statute states that the primary purpose of awarding alimony in a divorce is to ensure that a spouse, “who is economically disadvantaged relative to the other spouse, be rehabilitated . . . to achieve, with reasonable effort, an earning capacity that will permit [his or her] 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.” Depending on the circumstances involved, an award of rehabilitative alimony may include payment of college or trade school tuition and expenses and/or financial support for non-education related expenses during the period of rehabilitation.
2. Transitional Alimony
Under Tennessee law, an award of transitional alimony is appropriate where, “rehabilitation is not necessary, but the economically disadvantaged spouse needs assistance to adjust to the economic consequences of a divorce.” For example, transitional alimony may be awarded to help finance the purchase or rental of a new home or vehicle, or to assist with moving or other additional expenses that will be incurred as a result of the spouses’ separation.
3. Alimony In Solido
Alimony in solido is also known as “lump sum” alimony. As explained in the alimony statute, alimony in solido is a form of “long term support” that may be paid in installments (despite being referred to as “lump sum” alimony), and that may be awarded “over a definite period of time [provided that] the sum of the alimony to be paid is ascertainable when awarded.” Tennessee’s alimony statute also specifically provides that an award of alimony in solido (i) is not subject to modification unless specifically agreed, and (ii) does not terminate on the death or remarriage of either party.
4. Alimony In Futuro
As explained in Tennessee’s alimony statute, alimony in futuro “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 a relative economic disadvantage and that rehabilitation is not feasible.” Unlike alimony in solido, awards of alimony in futuro are subject to modification by default. However, proof of a “substantial and material change in circumstances” is required in order to justify a petition for modification. The statute also establishes a rebuttable presumption that an award of alimony in futuro should be terminated in the event of the recipient spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation.
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 law firms 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 the 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.
Alimony Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is a man just as likely to be awarded alimony as a woman is?
Yes. At least the way the law is written, gender is not a consideration when it comes to making alimony decisions. Now and then you might find an individual family court judge with a gender preference, and in these cases, a good divorce attorney can help you fight back.
Is alimony available before divorce proceedings have concluded?
In some cases, a divorcing spouse might become destitute without receiving financial support before an alimony award is issued. During a divorce proceeding, it is possible to file a motion for “pendente lite support”, or temporary alimony. The temporary support ends when the divorce is finalized, at which point a more permanent alimony order may have already been issued.
Can cohabitation with a new partner affect alimony obligations?
Yes, under some circumstances, it can. If you are receiving alimony and move in with a new partner and your ex-spouse seeks modification of the alimony award, the family judge might conclude that you are receiving financial support from a new partner; or they may conclude that the efficiencies of combining households (sharing rent, for example) are saving you money. In this case, the alimony award could be modified.
How does a prenuptial agreement affect alimony obligations?
If the terms of a prenuptial agreement preclude the payment of alimony, a Tennessee family court is entitled to enforce it and deny alimony. This is not true in some other states, but it is true in Tennessee. It is also possible that the judge might invalidate the prenuptial agreement itself for some reason or another, in which case the prohibition against alimony would also be invalidated. Some judges are hostile to prenuptial agreements.
What is a “dependent spouse”?
A spouse who received financial support during the marriage can be classified as a dependent spouse who is entitled to alimony – a stay at home mom, for example. The key issue here, however, is not so much whether the spouse worked outside the home during the marriage, but the future earning capacity of that spouse. Naturally, a spouse who earned little or nothing working outside the home will probably be at a disadvantage when seeking to rejoin the workforce.
How does a court determine whether unemployment is voluntary?
The two most important factors in determining alimony are i) the financial need of the dependent spouse, and ii) the ability of the other spouse to pay. Both of these considerations can potentially be manipulated by a spouse who refuses to work while claiming to be unable to find work. Some of the red flags include:
- Quitting a job without a good reason;
- Refusing to look for a new job after being laid off (the court may require evidence of a job search);
- Refusing to accept work below a certain salary threshold; or
- Being fired for misconduct.
In this case, the court may impute income to the offending spouse and calculate alimony accordingly.
Is alimony considered a “no-fault” issue in Tennessee?
No, at least not necessarily. This is because a Tennessee family court has the discretion to take fault into consideration when making alimony decisions. The party judged at fault for breaking up the marriage will be at a disadvantage whether that party is the recipient or the one paying alimony. The longer the marriage lasted, the greater the consideration of fault will become in the calculation of alimony obligations.
Are there any defenses against modifying alimony obligations in response to a proven allegation of adultery?
Even if one party is proven to have committed adultery, the court has the discretion to ignore the adultery (or to give it lesser consideration) if one of the following four circumstances can be proven:
- Recrimination: Both spouses committed adultery.
- Condonation: The other spouse forgave the adultery and had marital relations with the offending spouse after learning of the adultery.
- Connivance: The other spouse actively encouraged the offending spouse’s adultery – by, for example, assisting the other spouse in prostitution in order to profit from it.
- The husband exposed the wife to “lewd company,” leading to adultery (seldom used).
At Batson Nolan PLC, every dedicated Clarksville alimony lawyer takes 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 or if you are already undergoing a divorce, we urge you to contact us now so that our Clarksville alimony attorney can help you. If you are currently receiving or paying alimony and want to discuss your legal rights, please contact our lawyer at your convenience so that we can discuss your questions and properly advise you of your legal rights.