Alimony, which is sometimes called spousal support or maintenance, can be awarded by the court under various circumstances. Tennessee statutes and common law (cases) make this a fact intensive inquiry. Courts are given wide discretion on whether to award alimony, the forms the alimony will take and the terms of payment. An experienced divorce or “alimony” attorney can provide insight on the facts the court will weigh and likely outcomes. An alimony attorney will probably also tell you the two most important factors the court considers in deciding whether to award alimony are need and ability to pay.
An alimony lawyer should be able to educate you on the forms alimony might take. In Tennessee, there are four types of alimony: (1) in futuro (often called "periodic"), (2) in solido (a.k.a. "lump sum"), (3) rehabilitative and (4) transitional.
Alimony in futuro is the least favored form of alimony, but is frequently seen when one spouse has a severe economic disadvantage and cannot reasonably be expected to generate sufficient income in the future. Stay-at-home parents who have been out of the work force for a long time or the physically disabled are oftentimes prime candidates for this type of alimony. The obligation to pay ends automatically following the death or re-marriage of the recipient.
Alimony in solido is the use of marital assets to support a needy spouse. The court can divide the assets in such a way that the goal of alimony is achieved, which means the parties should not assume there will simply be a 50/50 split. These awards may sometimes take the form of periodic payments from one spouse to the other.
Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to give a spouse temporary support needed to prepare him or herself to become economically self-sufficient. The award can be modified if there is a "substantial and material" change in circumstances, but the parties can agree to make it non-modifiable. It terminates upon the death of the recipient spouse or payor spouse, unless the parties agree otherwise.
Transitional alimony is intended as temporary aid to a spouse who faces the harsher economic consequences of a divorce. It should be limited to a specific period of time. Recent case law strongly suggests it should not be awarded for more than 8 years. It is generally not modifiable unless the parties agree otherwise, the court includes a modification clause in the original divorce decree or the receiving spouse moves in with a third party. The obligation to pay ends automatically if the receiving spouse dies. It also ends automatically if the paying spouse dies, unless the parties otherwise agree.
No one wants to return to court to argue over spousal support years after the marriage ended, especially when the issue was previously resolved by an agreement. An attorney experienced with spousal support issues can help ensure this does not occur. The divorce attorney will be able to draft an agreement that is clear enough to avoid misinterpretations or the creation of unexpected future obligations. A lawyer assisting with spousal support issues can also help spot hidden financial advantages or disadvantages in alimony proposals.