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Alimony or spousal support is necessary in order to prevent a spouse from being financial devastated as as result of the divorce. Either spouse can request alimony, but he or she must prove their need to the judge. Support can be ordered while the divorce is pending and a final alimony award order will be issued at the conclusion of the process. In Tennessee, there are four types of alimony: (1) rehabilitative, (2) in futuro, (3) transitional and (4) in solido. Spouses can agree on the who will receive alimony and the amount so long as the agreement is consistent with the law. If the divorcing parties cannot agree, then the judge will determine if alimony is warranted, what amount and type should be paid and the duration. These orders are strictly enforced, but they can be modified only if one of the ex-spouses can prove a substantial change in their financial situation.

What Types of Alimony are Available in Tennessee? Rehabilitative

Rehabilitative alimony is designed to assist the disadvantaged spouse achieve a financial status that this comparable to his or her lifestyle before the divorce. Creating exact income equality is not the purpose of this type of alimony. The purpose is to restore the disadvantaged spouse’s ability to be economically self-sufficient. It is awarded for a specific period of time and can be modified if there is a substantial and material change in circumstances. Also, rehabilitative alimony terminates upon the death of either ex-spouse.

Example of Rehabilitative Alimony: Mike and Mary have been married for 15 years and decide to get a divorce. Mike earns $150,000 annually as a sales manager. Mary has been a stay-at-home mom for the past 13 years raising their 3 minor children. Following the divorce, Mary would like to become a nurse. Mike has agreed to pay Mary $2,000 a month and half of her nursing school expenses for the next five years.

In Futuro

In Futuro alimony is paid to a disadvantaged spouse when rehabilitation in highly unlikely or just not feasible. It is a fix amount that is to be paid until the disadvantaged spouse remarries or either ex-spouse dies. The alimony award can be modified or changed if either spouse can show a substantial change of circumstance. If the disadvantaged spouse lives with a third party then it is presumed that the third party is contributing to disadvantaged spouse’s livelihood or the spouse is supporting the third party. Either situation calls into question the need for alimony. In either case, the disadvantaged spouse must prove why they should continue to receive spousal support.

Example of In Futuro Alimony: Brad and Brenda have been married for 30 years and have decided to get a divorce. Brad is 63 and Brenda is 60. He earns $800,000 annually from his dental practice and she is a high school dropout with no substantial work history. Brad is court ordered to pay Brenda $20,000 a month.


Transitional alimony is intended to help the financially disadvantaged spouse adjust to non married life. Rehabilitation is not necessary. Generally, the award is non modifiable, but the parties can agree to terminate alimony if the disadvantaged spouse remarries. It is paid over a defined period of time and terminates upon either parties death.

Example of Transitional Alimony: Josh and Jessica met and got married while attending Vanderbilt University. They have five minor children. Josh now earns $200,000 as a college professor. Jessica works as an architect and earns $55,000 a year. Josh agrees to pay her $2,000 a month for 6 years.

In Solido

In solido alimony is specified amount and paid in one lump sum or a series of installments. Rehabilitation is not necessary and the award is non modifiable.

Example of In Solido Alimony: Clarence and Caroline are separating after 8 years of marriage. They don't have any children and they each earn the same salary. Caroline was awarded their marital home that has $80,000 worth of equity. Both spouses agreed to sell $100,000 worth of stock and give the proceeds to Clarence as in solido alimony

What Factors Will the Court Consider When Determining if a Spouse Needs Alimony and the Amount?

In Tennessee, when determining alimony need and amount the courts consider the disadvantaged spouse’s need, the obligor spouse’s ability to pay, marital fault and the following factors:

  1. The relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each party, including income from pension, profit sharing or retirement plans and all other sources;
  2. The relative education and training of each party, the ability and opportunity of each party to secure such education and training, and the necessity of a party to secure further education and training to improve such party's earnings capacity to a reasonable level;
  3. The duration of the marriage;
  4. The age and mental condition of each party;
  5. The physical condition of each party, including, but not limited to, physical disability or incapacity due to a chronic debilitating disease;
  6. The extent to which it would be undesirable for a party to seek employment outside the home, because such party will be custodian of a minor child of the marriage;
  7. The separate assets of each party, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
  8. The provisions made with regard to the marital property, as defined in § 36-4-121;
  9. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
  10. 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;
  11. The relative fault of the parties, in cases where the court, in its discretion, deems it appropriate to do so; and
  12. Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.

Tenn.Code.Ann § 36.5.11(i)

Can an Alimony Order be Modified or Changed?

Only rehabilitative, in futuro and transitional alimony are modifiable under certain circumstances. Either ex spouse can ask the court to modify the support order, but he or she must show a material substantial change in circumstances. The change in obligor spouse’s ability to pay or the supported spouse’s financial need must have been unforseen a the time of the original alimony order. Example of Alimony Modification: Todd is ordered to pay his ex-wife Tiffany $3,000 a month for seven years. In year three, Todd is diagnosed with a debilitating disease that leaves him unable to work. The court approves Todd’s alimony modification request.

If you or your spouse have requested alimony, then you need to hire an attorney with courtroom experience. Nashville alimony attorney Byron Pugh represents clients across Middle Tennessee, including but not limited to Nashville, Franklin, Brentwood, Spring Hill, Murfreesboro, Gallatin, Clarksville, Columbia, Davidson County, Sumner County, Rutherford County and Williamson County. Contact Byron Pugh Legal at (615) 255-9595 or (615) 957-9178 (after hours and weekends) or online to setup a free consultation.