In Tennessee, alimony is available and is also known as maintenance. Under Tennessee law, alimony is granted to a spouse and it can be awarded to bridge the gap, be rehabilitative, i.e., intended to get the person to a position where he or she can take care of expenses without assistance, durational, or permanent. Although people often think of alimony as paid on a monthly basis, it can be awarded in a lump sum or be a combination of the two. For a Court to award alimony two factors MUST be met:
The person requesting alimony must show a need for it; and
The person paying alimony must have the ability to pay it.
If both of those factors are not met, the Court will not award alimony. If the Spouses voluntarily agree to alimony in the Marital Settlement Agreement, then the Court will honor their agreement.
Alimony or maintenance payments are not in place to “punish” one spouse, but one spouse may have more resources and skills than another to support him or herself going forward. Alimony is a means to level the playing field. The length of a marriage is very important in determining alimony. Marriages may be classified as short, moderate, or long-term. These are broken down as follows:
Short-term – A marriage that lasted fewer than seven (7) years;
Moderate-term – A marriage that lasts 7 or more years, but fewer than seventeen (17) years;
Long-term – A marriage that lasts 17 or more years.
Types of alimony are intended for different purposes:
Temporary alimony – This is an award of alimony during the divorce proceeding, also known as alimony pendent lite. This award is automatically terminated upon the entry of the Final Judgment for Divorce and may be replaced by one of the other types of alimony.
Bridge-the-Gap alimony – This is transitional alimony. It is intended to help a spouse go from being married to being single by proving the money necessary to pay necessary bills associated with re-starting a life without a spouse.
Rehabilitative alimony – There are times when a spouse will need to pursue different educational programs or specific vocational skill training in order to obtain employment that will allow for self-sufficiency. When a Court grants a spouse rehabilitative alimony, the order needs to include a specific plan. For instance, a person who enjoys working with horses may decide to pursue a career as a farrier and the plan will include the estimated length of time of the program, associated costs, required time as an apprentice, and the period of time before the spouse anticipates achieving self-sufficiency. The spouse receiving or paying the alimony may Complaint for a modification of the order if circumstances change or the receiving spouse deviates significantly from the plan.
Durational alimony – This often is awarded in the instance of a short or moderate-term marriage. It is available when the other types of alimony do not fit the circumstances of the divorcing couple. It is awarded as a set amount over a pre-determined period of time, not to exceed the length of the marriage. Therefore, if the couple getting a divorce was married for two (2) years, the award of durational alimony will not exceed 2 years. Either of the spouses may file for a modification of the award if there is a significant change in circumstances, but modification only will apply to the amount of the award and not the length of time.
Permanent alimony – This is usually only granted in long-term marriages. Permanent alimony is available to a spouse who does not have the ability to achieve the standard set by the marriage with regard to necessities of life and general needs. The court would review the couple’s life during the marriage and determine what is reasonable. A person with extensive staff and luxuries may be awarded enough to reasonably maintain a similar lifestyle after the divorce. It is possible for a spouse to modify permanent alimony in the future if there is a significant change in circumstances or if the spouse receiving the alimony enters into a relationship where he or she is receiving support from someone living with them who is not related to him or her by blood or affinity.
Bridge-the-gap, durational, and permanent alimony will end upon the death of either the paying or the receiving spouse. If the person receiving the alimony remarries, the alimony also will cease. This does not apply to rehabilitative alimony.
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