What You Should Know about Spousal Alimony and the Factors Affecting It?

What You Should Know about Spousal Alimony and the Factors Affecting It?

Divorce can be difficult, especially if one of the partners is not going to be financially independent after the separation. Alimony is considered important in a divorce to ensure financial balance among the partners.

How Is Alimony Defined?

Alimony is defined as the legal obligation on a person who will have to provide financial support to his/her spouse during the proceedings of the divorce and after separation. The court orders alimony payments when it is found that the divorce may result in imbalanced financial stress for one of the partners in the relationship.

What Are the Different Types of Alimony in the State of Tennessee?

The courts of Tennessee may order one or a combination of the below-mentioned types of alimony:

Rehabilitative Alimony

This alimony is offered when the dependent spouse needs additional capabilities to become self-sufficient. It may be used for pursuing higher education or to improve employment prospects.

Periodic Alimony

The court recognizes various instances based on the requirements of the dependant partner and a periodic payment is provided by the spouse for financial support.

Transitional Alimony

Transitional alimony is a short-term solution awarded by the court when rehabilitation is not required. Spousal support is provided to the economically disadvantaged partner to cope with the economic consequences of a divorce.

Lump-Sum Alimony

It is a one-time payment that equalizes the financial standing of both partners.

What Factors Determine the Payment of Alimony?

The factors that determine the payment of alimony in the State of Tennessee are:

  • The earning capacity, needs, obligations, and financial resources of each party, including income from pension, retirement plans or profit-sharing policies
  • Duration of marriage
  • The education and training of each party, the capability to secure the education and training to boost earning capacity
  • Age and mental health of each party
  • Physical health of each party, not limited to physical inability or incapability due to a chronic disease
  • Restrictions on a party to seek employment for being the custodian of a minor child
  • Tangible and intangible assets of each party
  • Standard of living established by the couple during the marriage
  • Monetary and homemaker contributions made by each party towards the success of the marriage.
  • The extent of fault on the parties involved
  • Equities and tax consequences involved

How Is Alimony in Tennessee Determined?

The Tennessee courts are directed by two primary sources of law. The statutory law and the case law.

The statutory law defines the following:

  • Types of alimony
  • Length of the alimony payments
  • Payment amount
  • Possibilities for payment modification
  • If alimony can be terminated automatically or by an application of elimination by the court

The Tennessee case law describes the decisional body of law developed by the appellate courts in Tennessee. The Tennessee Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Tennessee together constitute the appellate court in Tennessee.

The decision of the appellate court is issued as a written legal opinion. A few of these decisions are instructive and have an impact on the trial courts. The others are considered as memorandum opinions. It should be noted that the opinion of the appellate courts determines the details of granting alimony in Tennessee.

For How Long Is Alimony Paid in a Tennessee Divorce?

No predefined payment period or length of the term has been put in place. The duration of paying alimony depends on these factors.

  • Length of marriage
  • Income disparities among the partners

Long-term marriages will result in longer-term alimony when compared to a shorter marriage term. However, if the court finds that the spouse is not self-sufficient or will not be able to self-support due to disabilities or prevailing health conditions, the length of the alimony payment can be made permanent even if the marriage term is short.

When Can Alimony in Tennessee Be Stopped?

The payment of alimony can be stopped by appealing to the court and obtaining a legal order in a few scenarios.

  • In the case of lump-sum or transitional alimony, the payer may stop payment after the tenure stated by the court order ends
  • If the alimony awarded is transitional or periodic and the recipient is living with another person, the payer may appeal to terminate or modify the obligation based on the presumption that the recipient is either providing or receiving support from a third party
  • If the alimony is rehabilitative, the payer can appeal to reduce or modify the alimony obligation after stating the changes in situations or the reason for the termination/modification

What Is Temporary Alimony and How Is It Determined?

The courts in Tennessee have the authority to order one of the parties to provide temporary alimony, child support, and lawyer’s fees until the divorce case is pending. The objective of providing temporary support is to ensure that existing bills, mortgages, and financial needs are being taken care of.

The factors that determine the amount of temporary alimony are:

  • The requirements of the party to whom the temporary alimony is to be paid
  • The ability of one of the partners to pay
  • The standard of living of the couple while separation

It should be noted that unless there is a compelling reason, the court insists on timely payments of the existing bills and mortgages. Usually, the court allocates this responsibility between the spouses. The responsibility of providing child support and attorney fees are also considered.

What Is “Fault” in Alimony as per Tennessee Law?

Fault refers to any kind of wrong-doing that results at the end of the marriage. Courts of Tennessee assign blame on one of the spouses for the failure of the marriage. The examples of marital fault are, but not limited to:

  • Cheating
  • Addiction to alcohol or drugs
  • Wasteful spending
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Adultery

How Can Fault Impact an Alimony Claim?

Fault is considered as an important factor in the determination of alimony. However, it may not be the defining factor in short-term marriages. In the case of long-term marriages, fault cannot be punitive. Also, the court cannot award alimony to a spouse or allocate additional financial burden because of marital misconduct. The extent of application of fault on alimony depends on the decision of the judge, seriousness of the fault, and the impact of the wrong-doing and failure of the relationship.

Which Defenses Can Be Presented against Fault?

Fault is a broad term that includes adultery and cheating. Under Tennessee law, five different defenses to a fault can be presented. They are:

  • Recrimination: The other partner is also at fault or engaged in similar behavior.
  • Condonation: Proving that a spouse knew about and forgave the act of adultery, while resuming marital relations.
  • Connivance: The complaining spouse approves and partakes in the act of adultery or creates such a prospect by enticing someone to seduce the spouse.
  • Provocation: The act of provoking the partner in a certain way.
  • Collusion: An agreement between the partners to formulate the grounds of divorce.

When a defense is proven, the court may either lessen the impact of fault on the alimony allocated or may not grant the divorce.

What Happens If the Payer Refuses to Pay the Alimony?

The recipient can initiate legal action against the payer upon non-payment of alimony. This involves filing a petition of civil contempt, criminal contempt, or both in the court.

Proving contempt requires proof of the alimony payment order as issued by the court and the violation of this order. If the recipient proves that the payer has the present ability to pay, but did not pay, it is called as civil contempt. Civil contempt ends when the party in question complies by the court order or when the underlying case is resolved.

If it is proved that the payer had the ability to pay when the payments were due but did not do so, it is criminal contempt, and the payer may be punished for it.

How Can Legal Assistance Help?

When the financially disadvantaged spouse seeks legal help, the attorney provides support to effectively navigate through the complex alimony laws and other factors. This helps in strengthening the financial stand of the disadvantaged spouse. Also, an experienced attorney can help when the alimony payer experiences financial crisis or the payee exceeds earning expectations by appealing for modifications in the alimony schedule.

A divorce involves several intricacies and understanding them may be difficult. The points above elaborate on the divorce laws applicable in the State of Tennessee and the important factors that help in determining alimony as a part of the proceedings. Hopefully, this information will provide you with a clear idea of the types of alimony, how it is granted by the Tennessee court, and how seeking legal assistance can be helpful.