Alimony and spousal support
Lots of people think they deserve, or fear they’ll have to pay, alimony. In fact, alimony is fairly rare in Tennessee. Alimony is determined on a case by case basis, and is not tied to relatively strict mathematical principles like child support. Remember, alimony is disfavored, and is not something that every divorcing person encounters or should expect.
Types of Alimony
There are four types of alimony in Tennessee. T.C.A. § 36-5-121.
Alimony in futuro– This type of alimony is what many people think of—long term payments from one divorced spouse to the other. It is very rare, and should only be awarded when the economically disadvantaged spouse cannot reasonably reach an earning capacity that will permit that spouse’s standard of living after the divorce to be comparable to how s/he lived during the marriage.
Rehabilitative alimony– This more limited alimony is awarded to help bridge the gap. It allows payments to help the economically disadvantaged spouse gain the education or job training and skills to become self-sufficient. This type of alimony is short-term, not forever.
Transitional alimony-This alimony assists the spouse in moving forward with a new and independent lifestyle.
Alimony in solido-Lump sum alimony. This type of alimony is typically achieved by reallocating the percentages of the parties’ property division in a divorce. The economically disadvantaged spouse may receive an equal (or near equal) division of the property, but then an lump sum award recognizing that s/he will have more need for money in the sort run. Alternatively, the court may simply adjust the division of property to favor the disadvantaged spouse under principles of equity.
Factors Courts Must Consider
Tennessee law sets forth the following factors for courts to use in determining whether alimony is appropriate:
(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.
Tennessee Code Ann. § 36-5-121(i).
While the Court is technically obligated to consider all of these factors, the whole analysis can typically be boiled down to two factors: (1) one spouses need and (2) the other’s ability to pay.
If you and your spouse have greatly disparate incomes or assets, alimony of some form may be appropriate. Often, even where long-term alimony is not available, “Temporary Spousal Support” is available while the case is pending. Talk to us and we’ll give you our honest opinion.