Tennessee Alimony Guidelines

Read attorney Sheree Hoffman’s thoughts on the 2011 ruling on Alimony in Futuro by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

What is Alimony and Who Must Pay it?

Depending on the circumstances, the parties involved and other factors, the Court may award alimony to be paid by one spouse to or for the other in any divorce or other legal separation.

In section §36-5-121 of the Tennessee Code there are many types of alimony that may apply to divorce proceedings.

You could be awarded:

  • Rehabilitative Alimony
  • Periodic Alimony (aka “alimony in futuro”)
  • Transitional Alimony
  • Alimony in Solido (aka “lump sum alimony”)

In some cases the court may award some combination of these types of alimony, depending on the circumstances.

Rehabilitative Alimony

The main purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to provide period for the disadvantaged spouse to regain the economic and material status that was enjoyed  during the marriage. It may last a short time or a long time, depending on the decision of the Court.

When a spouse is disadvantaged economically in relation to the other spouse, the state has intended, whenver possible, to grant an order for payment of rehabilitative alimony. The purpose of this is for the economically disadvantaged spouse to become “rehabilitated” or to achieve an earnings level after the divorce to be reasonably comparable to the same standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage. Alternately, rehabilitative alimony is intended to help the spuse achieve the standard of living available to the other spouse immediately following the divorce.

When rehabilitative alimony is awarded, the paymens shall remain in the control of the Court for the length of time that the award is made, but may be altered either by increase, decrease, extension or even termination, depending on the discretion of the Court. The term of rehabilitative alimony may be extended as the Court sees fit if the recipient of the alimony has unsuccessfully made all reasonable attempts to achieve a comparable standard of living as that during the marriage.

Rehabilitative alimony obligation ends in the event of the death of either the payer or recipient.

Periodic Alimony

If the couple is at an economic imbalance and one spouse is more economically disadvantaged and there is no reasonable option of rehabilitation, the Court will consider the facts and circumstances and possibly grant periodic alimony. Periodic alimony is also sometimes called alimony in futuro. Alimony in futuro is an order whereby the recipient receives ongoing support for a long time – usually until remarriage or death.

In some cases, rehabilitative alimony is not an option because the spouse will never be able to achieve the same standards and comforts that were enjoyed during the marriage. Likewise, the spouse will never be able to achieve the same standards that the other spouse enjoys after the divorce. The Court will weigh these factors and determine if alimony in futuro is appropriate.

Alimony in futuro is controlled through the Court for the duration of the obligation, and the Court may periodically change or modify the terms or amount when there’s resonable changes in circumstances.

There are some cases when the spouse may begin living with a third party, and it is sometimes presumed that the third person may be providing financial support to the alimony recipient. This would be an example of a case where someone paying alimony in futuro may wish to ask the Court to modify or terminate the obligation.

In the event of remarriage of the recipient or the death of either the recipient or payer, alimony in futuro is terminated.

Transitional Alimony

Transitional alimony is essentially alimony that’s paid for a set period of time, or a transitional period. In cases where rehabilitation is unnecessary but there does exist a financial need for the spouse to return to the position of economic equality , the Court may award transitional alimony. This is for the disadvantaged spouse to recover from the new economic situation, and resume living at the same standard as during the marriage.

Transitional Alimony obligation ends in the event of the death of the payer or recipient.

Alimony in Solido

Alimony in solido is generally a lump sum alimony payment that may be ordered instead of other alimony types, or in addition to those awards. This can include payments for legal fees incurred in the divorce, but is generally awarded as a kind of long-term support outside the realms of transitional alimony.

Recipients may sometimes receive alimony in solido through installment payments, which are calculated at the time of the Court order.