Alimony is a blanket word used to cover many types of post-divorce spousal support. In Tennessee, there are rehabilitative alimony, alimony in futuro (periodic alimony), transitional alimony, and alimony in solido (lump sum alimony). The definitions of these types of alimony in layman's terms are as follows:
• Rehabilitative alimony- post-divorce support designed to financially support an economically disadvantaged spouse that has been out of the workforce or does not have the earning capacity to enjoy the same lifestyle as was enjoyed during the marriage. Typically this is ordered for a reasonable period of time that allows the disadvantaged spouse to receive training and/or schooling in order to obtain better means of supporting themselves.
• Alimony in solido- post-divorce support designed for the support of a disadvantaged spouse for which the court has determined cannot be financially rehabilitated due to age, physical ailments, etc. This is ordered for long periods of time, typically until remarriage/cohabitation with another or death of either the payee or payor. It is designed to allow a disadvantaged spouse to enjoy a lifestyle comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage when they are deemed unable to support themselves in this manner for some reason.
• Transitional alimony- post-divorce support ordered for a definitive period of time to allow a disadvantaged spouse time to adjust to his or her new financial circumstances. This is typically ordered when it is deemed rehabilitative alimony is not appropriate due to the spouses having similar earning capacities.
• Alimony in solido- This is a "lump-sum" form of post-divorce support for which the exact amount of the support is known and calculated by the court. It can be ordered to be paid in a lump sum or in payments for a definitive period of time. This is typically ordered in situations where a spouse is ordered to pay the other spouse's attorney's fees, to settle equity in property, etc.
Per Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-121(c)(2), alimony can be awarded to a spouse if the court deems that a spouse "suffers economic detriment for the benefit of the marriage." When awarding alimony it is the intention of the court for the economically disadvantaged spouse's standard of living to be maintained to a comparable standard post divorce or comparable to the other spouse's standard of living that will be enjoyed post divorce. When deciding if alimony is appropriate the court will consider the following:
• Each spouse's earning ability, financial obligations, and financial resources;
• Each spouse's training and/or education and/or the ability to obtain further training and/or education;
• The length of the marriage;
• Each spouse's physical condition;
• Whether a spouse has custody of minor children and how this will affect the parent's ability to work outside the home;
• Each spouse's separate property;
• The split of marital property in the divorce;
• The standard of living enjoyed by the spouse during the marriage;
• How each spouse contributed to the marriage either financially or as a homemaker;
• Whether a spouse helped the other obtain education and/or training;
• The fault of each spouse for the divorce; and
• Tax consequences of support payments.
More than one type of alimony can be ordered for a spouse in a divorce matter. For instance, if a spouse is age 65 and has never worked during the marriage and has no educational or professional background the court may order alimony in futuro for his or her support as well as alimony in solido for the spouse's attorney's fees. This can work in any combination that the court deems appropriate.
While Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-121 sets forth the statutory requirements for support, courts have broad discretion in determining if alimony is appropriate in a particular matter. The parties' personal situation and facts of the case must be considered by the courts on a case by case basis to determine if the support is necessary. These facts will also help the court decide the type, amount, and duration of support.