Crocker & Carter’s divorce attorneys have represented clients on both sides of alimony awards. Our attorneys have been successful protecting payor-spouses from expensive alimony obligations and, on the other side, have won long-term alimony awards for economically disadvantaged spouses. Crocker & Carter’s attorneys have also represented numerous clients in post-divorce alimony modification cases. Crocker & Carter’s attorneys have in-depth knowledge and experience regarding alimony law in Tennessee.
In a divorce where there is a gap between the spouses’ financial circumstances, the court may order the spouse with the higher income or more assets to pay money to the other spouse. These payments are called alimony. Broadly speaking, the purpose of alimony is to offset any relative economic disadvantage that exists between the spouses. The traditional example is where the husband was the primary income earner throughout the marriage and the wife was a home-maker and caretaker for the children. However, alimony can be awarded in other circumstances.
When considering an alimony award, the law requires the court consider several factors. As an overarching concept, the most important factors for a court to consider in making an alimony award are the recipient-spouse’s need for alimony and the payor-spouse’s ability to pay.
There are four types of alimony in Tennessee: rehabilitative alimony, transitional alimony, long-term alimony (called alimony in futuro), and lump-sum alimony (called alimony in solido).
The recent trend in Tennessee law is to award rehabilitative alimony over any other type of alimony award. Rehabilitative alimony is awarded in order to allow the recipient-spouse, with a reasonable degree of effort, to achieve the standard of living after the divorce that was enjoyed during the marriage or that is expected to be available to the payor-spouse after the marriage.
An award of rehabilitative alimony remains under the court’s control for the duration of the award and may be increased, decreased, terminated, or extended upon a substantial and material change in circumstances. In cases where the recipient-spouse later seeks to increase the duration of the award on increase the amount of the award, the recipient-spouse bears the burden of proving to the court that all efforts at rehabilitation have been made but were unsuccessful.
Rehabilitative alimony terminates upon the death of the recipient-spouse or payor-spouse, unless otherwise agreed by the parties.
Transitional alimony is awarded in cases where the court determines that rehabilitation of the economically disadvantaged spouse is not necessary, but the economically disadvantaged spouse needs financial assistance to adjust to the economic consequences of divorce, legal separation, or petition for an order of protection.
Transitional alimony is non-modifiable unless otherwise agreed by the parties, otherwise ordered by the court, or the recipient spouse lives with a third person.
In cases where the recipient-spouse lives with a third person, a rebuttable presumption is raised that the third person is contributing to or receiving support from the recipient-spouse and the amount previously awarded should be suspended or modified. In other words, in cases where the recipient-spouse lives with a third person, the court will terminate or modify the original alimony award unless the recipient-spouse proves that the recipient-spouse is not supporting the third person or receiving support from the third person.
Long-Term Alimony (Alimony In Futuro)
Alimony in futuro is awarded in divorce cases where rehabilitation of the economically disadvantage spouse is not feasible and is most often awarded in cases where there was a long-term marriage.
Alimony in futuro terminates when the payor-spouse or recipient-spouse dies or when the recipient-spouse remarries.
Alimony in futuro remains in the control of the court for the duration of the award, meaning that the court may modify or terminate alimony in futuro when there is a substantial and material change in circumstances.
Lump-Sum Alimony (Alimony In Solido)
Alimony in solido is alimony that is payable in one lump-sum or payable in installments over time. What distinguishes alimony in solido from other types of alimony is that the total amount can be calculated the date of the court’s order. For example, a court could award a recipient-spouse $50,000 in alimony in solido payable within thirty days of the court’s order, or the court could order the payor-spouse to pay $1,000 per month for fifty months.
Alimony in solido is not modifiable, except by agreement of the spouses, and alimony in solido does not terminate upon the death or remarriage of either spouse.
Tax Consequences of Alimony
You should consult a tax professional regarding the tax consequences of an alimony obligation or award. Generally, an alimony award is taxable as income to the recipient-spouse and deductible by the payor-spouse, but there are exceptions, such as awards of alimony in solido.
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