What Factors Affect Spousal Support in Tennessee?

What Factors Affect Spousal Support in Tennessee?Tennessee has four types of alimony. Before reviewing what issues can affect entitlement (or non-entitlement) to spousal support and the amount and length of spousal support, it’s important to understand these four types of possible alimony awards.

The four types of Tennessee alimony support are set forth in Tennessee Code § 36-5-121:

  • Rehabilitative alimony. This type of spousal support aims to help a spouse earn a living (or a better living) by going to school, obtaining job training, or developing job skills. Rehabilitative means that with reasonable effort the less financially secure spouse can earn a living after the divorce that is comparable to her/his standard of living before the divorce or comparable to the more financially secure spouse’s post-divorce standard of living, given the “relevant statutory factors and the equities between the parties.” It may be possible to increase the amount of rehabilitative alimony if all reasonable efforts are rehabilitation are not successful.
  • Alimony in futuro. This type of alimony can be awarded in addition to or instead of a rehabilitative alimony award. This type of alimony is generally awarded if the less financially secure spouse doesn’t have the ability to support herself/himself. A common example is where a spouse quit her/his job to raise a family but is now unable to work due to a disability, or is too old to obtain the necessary job skills to start a new career. This type of alimony ends if the recipient remarries or dies. Alimony in futuro may also be ended or reduced if the recipient lives with a third person. There is a rebuttable presumption that the third person is “contributing to the support of the alimony recipient and the alimony recipient does not need the amount of support previously awarded.”
  • Transitional alimony.  This type of short-term support may be awarded if a spouse doesn’t need rehabilitative alimony – but does need economic help to “adjust to the economic consequences of a divorce, legal separation or other proceeding where spousal support may be awarded, such as a petition for an order of protection.” Transitional alimony terminates if the recipient dies. Transitional alimony can’t be changed unless:
    • The spouses agree and the agreement is made part of the divorce decree
    • The court orders the change as part of the initial decree
    • The recipient lives with a third person – in which case, there is a rebuttable presumption the third-person is financially helping the recipient
  • Alimonyin solido. This is a long-term alimony payment – that can also be paid in a lump sum. The more financially secure spouse will be ordered to make regular payments for a set period of time. “The purpose of this form of alimony is to provide financial support to a spouse. In addition, alimony in solido may include attorney fees, where appropriate.” This type of alimony can’t be changed unless the parties agree. Alimony in solido does NOT end when the recipient dies or remarries.

If you and your spouse prefer to have control over the amount, type, and duration of alimony; you can negotiate and create a settlement together.

What statutory factors determine the amount of alimony?

Either spouse can request alimony. The type of alimony, the amount, the length, and the manner of payment are determined by reviewing the following factors:

  • The comparative earning ability, responsibilities, financial resources, and needs of each spouse – including income from retirement plans, pensions, and profit-sharing plans
  • The comparative education of each spouse, the ability to obtain an education or quality job skills, and the need of each spouse to improve their education/training so they can earn a reasonable living
  • How long the spouses were married
  • The age, physical health, and mental health of each spouse – including whether either spouse has a physical disability
  • Any reasons why it would not be desirable for a spouse to seek employment “outside the home, because such party will be custodian of a minor child of the marriage”
  • Each spouse’s separate assets – real property and personal property, tangible and intangible.
  • Any marital property provisions – such as a prenup agreement.
  • Each spouse’s standard of living prior to the divorce
  • “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”

In addition:

  • The court can consider the comparative fault of either spouse if the court thinks it necessary to do so.
  • The court can consider other financial factors such as tax consequences and other equitable factors. Alimony payments can’t be deducted for tax purposes due to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, for orders and agreements made official starting January 1, 2019.

Generally, the court has broad discretion when determining the various types of alimony.

The best way to ensure that spousal support awards are not left to the discretion of the family court judge is to negotiate an alimony settlement. Settlements are negotiated through:

  • Negotiation between the lawyers
  • The mediation process where the spouses and lawyers work with a neutral third-party mediator
  • A collaborative divorce process where the spouses and lawyers work with financial and other professionals

How do you change a Tennessee spousal support order?

Generally, the court can review a request to modify an agreement unless the alimony statutes don’t allow a modification or the parties reach their own agreement about modifications. A modification generally requires that one spouse show that there has been a significant change in circumstances. Examples of significant changes include the loss or gain of a job and health disorders.

At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, our trusted family lawyer has been helping and fighting for clients for 30 years. We understand how financially difficult it is for spouses to live apart than together. We assert your rights to spousal support and your rights to limit any spousal support, depending on your financial interests. We coordinate any claims for spousal support with strong marital property settlement agreements, child custody support, and child custody orders. To help you move forward, financially and emotionally, after a divorce, please call our office at 615-977-9370 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We maintain offices in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood.