Tennessee Awards of Alimony in Divorce
Alimony is a legal obligation to pay a spouse or former spouse support. A court may require payments of alimony or spousal support on a temporary or permanent basis, during a divorce proceeding or after the divorce is granted. In addition to the monthly amount and length of term of payments, the type of alimony is very important. There are four types of alimony in Tennessee: alimony in futuro (also called periodic alimony), transitional alimony, rehabilitative alimony, and alimony in solido (also called lump-sum alimony). The type of alimony dictates whether the award may be modified after the divorce and under what circumstances the alimony obligation terminates.
Alimony in futuro (aka periodic alimony)
As a general rule, alimony in futuro (or periodic alimony) is a long-term alimony award when there is a significant disparity in earnings and wealth, and when rehabilitation is not possible. Tennessee law says that alimony in futuro will be owed when the person receiving support cannot expect to have a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage.
Alimony in futuro can be modified by the court upon a showing of a change of circumstances. If the supported spouse cohabitates with a third-party, then the court may consider that the support may no longer be needed. Alimony in futuro automatically terminates upon the death of the receiving party or upon the recipient’s remarriage.
Alimony in solido (aka lump-sum alimony)
Alimony in solido, is also a form of long-term support. Alimony in solido is a unique form of alimony used most often to balance out a lop-sided property division, usually caused by a large indivisible asset going to one spouse (for instance, the marital home). Courts may also order attorney fees incurred by one spouse be paid by the other spouse using an award of alimony in solido. Depending on the circumstances, Courts may prefer awarding alimony in solido over an award of alimony in futuro.
Most often though, a party will receive an award of alimony in solido when parties settle in mediation and seek to avoid the risks of trial. The payments are either a single lump-sum or a series of payments over time. Alimony in solido is not modifiable. Furthermore, the obligation does not terminate upon the death of the recipient or payor.
Transitional alimony, is appropriate when a court finds that rehabilitation is not required but that the economically disadvantaged spouse needs financial assistance in adjusting to the economic consequences of the divorce. Simply put, this type of alimony aids the person in the transition to the status of a single person. Transitional alimony lasts only for a certain period of time and generally terminates upon the death of the recipient or payor, unless otherwise specifically stated in the divorce decree. Transitional alimony cannot be modified, unless the parties agree to make it modifiable at the time of the initial order of divorce. For many, transitional alimony will be an attractive option because of its certainty and predictability.
Rehabilitative alimony helps a former spouse obtain additional education, training, or experience to rejoin the workforce. This way the former spouse will be able to earn an income to achieve a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage. In application, most judges will find self-sufficiency is more the goal than equal standards of living after divorce.
Rehabilitative alimony may be modified by the courts upon a showing of changed circumstances. Additionally, the length of the alimony award can be extended if it is shown that the recipient spouse did make a reasonable effort at rehabilitation, but that effort was unsuccessful. Rehabilitative alimony will terminate upon the death of the payor or recipient.
Tennessee’s alimony factors
In considering a divorce case and whether alimony should be awarded, and if so, the type of alimony to be awarded, including the amount and duration, Court are to consider the following factors:
- 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;
- 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 earning capacity to a reasonable level;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age and mental condition of each party;
- The physical condition of each party, including, but not limited to, physical disability or incapacity due to a chronic, debilitating disease;
- 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;
- The separate assets of each party, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
- The marital property division;
- The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
- 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;
- The relative fault of the parties (who is more to blame) in cases where the court, in its discretion, deems it appropriate to do so; and
- Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.
Basically everything is considered in determining an award of alimony. Need and ability to pay are often the two most important considerations.