Alimony is also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance. People who are divorcing in Tennessee could be ordered to pay different kinds of alimony to their spouse, and the duration of this award can depend on numerous factors.
Understandably, alimony can be a very contentious topic between divorcing spouses. One person may feel that they are owed a great deal of alimony while the other might strongly believe that there should be no obligation.
If a couple cannot agree on the terms of alimony, then a court may have to step in to decide. You will want to have an attorney who is well-versed in family law on your side for any court appearance.
If alimony is proving to be a significant issue in your divorce in the greater Memphis area, do not waste your time arguing with your spouse. Let an experienced attorney help you achieve the most desirable resolution possible.
Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law, has been serving families in Memphis and across Tennessee since 1997. He will evaluate your specific situation and discuss how alimony works when you call (901) 390-9041 or fill out a contact form online to schedule your free consultation.
Tennessee Code § 36-5-121(a) establishes that a court can award alimony to be paid by one spouse to or for the benefit of the other in any action for divorce, legal separation, or separate maintenance.
A trial court is granted broad discretion to determine whether alimony is required and what the nature, amount, and duration of alimony should be when awarded. Appellate courts will not alter a trial court’s alimony decision unless there was an incorrect legal standard applied or the court reached an unreasonable decision.
Under Tennessee Code § 36-5-121(i), a court will consider all relevant factors when determining whether alimony is appropriate as well as the nature, amount, length of term, and manner of payment of alimony. The dozen factors a court should consider listed in the statute include:
The relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of both spouses
The relative education and training of both spouses
The length of the marriage
The age and mental condition of each spouse
The physical condition of both spouses
Effect of employment on a spouse who will be the custodian of a minor child
The separate assets of each spouse
Marital property provisions
The standard of living established during the marriage
The extent to which each spouse made tangible and intangible contributions to the marriage
The relative fault of the spouses
Other factors, such as tax consequences to each spouse
As the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville noted in Riggs v. Riggs, 250 S.W.3d 453, 456 n. 2 (Tenn.Ct.App.2007), “Among these factors, the two that are considered the most important are the disadvantaged spouse’s need and the obligor spouse’s ability to pay.”
Rush v. Rush, 232 S.W.2d 333, 336 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1949) was the Court of Appeals of Tennessee decision that alimony was “allowed in recognition of the husband’s common law liability to support the wife.” The same year of that decision, the legislature enacted two types of alimony, alimony in futuro and alimony in solido.
Tennessee now has four types of alimony:
Alimony in Solido (Lump Sum Alimony)
A form of long-term support that is calculable on the date the decree is entered, but can be paid in installments when the payments are ordered over a definite period of time and the total alimony awarded is ascertainable.
Alimony in Futuro (Periodic Alimony)
Alimony paid out over a longer course of time for a marriage that was longer and a spouse who may be unable to earn a living.
An award of rehabilitative alimony is usually made to a spouse who has either been out of the workforce or cannot otherwise earn enough wages to enjoy the same standard of living they had become accustomed to.
An award to an economically disadvantaged spouse when the court finds that rehabilitation is not necessary.
As it concerns the duration of these types of alimony, alimony in solido must continue until all payments are made, regardless of the death of a spouse. Alimony in futuro can continue until the supported spouse dies or remarries, or the paying spouse dies.
Rehabilitative alimony and transitional alimony last as long as a judge thinks is necessary for a spouse to achieve suitable income on their own. Both kinds of alimony also terminate upon the death of either spouse.
Can A Court Award More Than One Kind Of Alimony To The Same Person?
Yes, it is entirely possible for a spouse to be awarded two kinds of alimony. For example, a court could award alimony in solido when dividing assets in a marriage, but it can also order a spouse to pay rehabilitative alimony and transitional alimony as well.
Can Alimony Be Modified?
Modifying alimony will depend on the form of alimony awarded as well as the specific facts of the case. Alimony in futuro, rehabilitative alimony, and transitional alimony can all be modified in certain circumstances, but alimony in solido can never be modified. In Bogan v. Bogan, 60 S.W.3d 721, 727-28 (Tenn. 2001), the Supreme Court of Tennessee ruled, “Under Tennessee law, an alimony award may be modified if the party seeking modification can prove that there has been a substantial and material change of circumstances since the entry of the judgment of divorce.” A substantial and material change of circumstances often includes a drastic increase or decrease in the income of the spouse paying alimony.
What Happens If A Spouse Refuses To Pay Alimony?
When a spouse fails to pay alimony, the spouse who was supposed to receive payments can file a petition for contempt and collection in court. The court could order future child support and arrearages to be paid through a wage assignment order, seek reimbursement for filing fees, court costs, and attorney’s fees, be awarded interest on unpaid child support, and possibly have the court find the delinquent spouse in civil or criminal contempt. A court could jail a delinquent spouse until a certain amount is paid (often referred to as a purge payment).
Are discussions about alimony in our divorce in Memphis or a surrounding area of Tennessee going nowhere? Hire Shannon A. Jones, Attorney at Law to make sure that your interests are represented by an attorney who knows the laws in Tennessee and who will aggressively fight for what is yours. Call (901) 390-9041 or fill out a contact form to set up a free, confidential consultation.