Pretty much everyone in Knoxville is familiar with the University of Tennessee’s former basketball coach Bruce Pearl’s ex-wife opening up a nail salon called “Alimonys” after their divorce. And rightly so, because when a couple is divorcing, the big “A” word is on everyone’s mind. Alimony — how much will I get?  How much will I have to pay?

Tennessee’s alimony statute allows for flexibility when crafting alimony awards in order to find the form that works best for each family in the event of a divorce. Under Tennessee law, awards of alimony are not guaranteed. Instead, the party seeking alimony must prove his or her entitlement to the award.

Types of Alimony

In Tennessee, there are four types of alimony:  rehabilitative alimony, alimony in futuro, alimony in solido, and transitional alimony. Each type of alimony has its own unique purpose and the distinctions between the types of alimony can be confusing, even to the courts.

Rehabilitative Alimony:  This type of alimony is often used when a traditional marriage (of a bread-winning husband and stay-at-home mom) breaks up. It provides an economically disadvantaged spouse the means and opportunity to retain the economic status that was achieved during the marriage. It can allow the disadvantaged spouse the opportunity to acquire the additional education or training needed to achieve the standard of living that was achieved during the marriage. The theory behind this award is that the court orders the higher-earning spouse to pay the disadvantaged spouse a certain sum of money for a set period of time until the disadvantaged spouse’s career and earnings are “rehabilitated.” The duration of alimony payments depends on the length of marriage and particular circumstances of the case. Rehabilitative alimony can be modified, terminated or extended.

Alimony in Futuro:  This type of alimony provides for spousal support on a long-term basis and that support be paid at regular intervals until the death or remarriage of the recipient. This is used in cases where there is an economic imbalance between the spouses and there is not much chance for rehabilitation because the disadvantaged spouse may never reach the earnings level necessary to replicate the comforts and security previously enjoyed during the marriage. Alimony in futuro can be awarded in addition to rehabilitative alimony. The court may periodically adjust this award when a change in circumstances warrants it.

Alimony in Solido:  This is usually a lump sum alimony payment for a sum certain that can be ordered alone or in addition to the other types of alimony. The total amount to be paid is ascertainable on the date of the divorce. An example of this type of award is when husband Steve is ordered to pay wife Mary $1,000 per month for 60 months. The total alimony award can be ascertained at $60,000. If there is a chance that the award may be modified later, then it is not an award of alimony in solido. Moreover, these payments do not terminate upon the death or remarriage of either former spouse.

Transitional Alimony: This type of alimony is utilized when a form of short-term support is needed, but rehabilitation is not needed. Often, a spouse needs assistance adjusting to the economic realities of the divorce. An example of transitional alimony is where the spouse never left the workforce, but needs some financial assistance in setting up a new household.

Whether a court will award alimony to one spouse in the event of a divorce or legal separation is dependent upon many factors unique to each individual case. If spousal support is a concern to you, consult with a lawyer to determine the best course of action for you.