Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Tennessee

Find out how alimony (spousal support) is awarded and calculated in Tennessee.

Alimony is a regular payment one spouse makes to the other spouse to provide support during or after a divorce. The spouses may agree to alimony, or the court may order it.

Types of Alimony in Tennessee

In Tennessee, there are four different types of alimony. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the court may award one or a combination of these types of alimony.

  • Rehabilitative Alimony: The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to help a spouse who’s been out of the workforce or who doesn’t have the ability to earn much income develop the capacity to earn enough money to enjoy a standard of living similar to the one the spouses shared during marriage--or at least similar to the one the other spouse will enjoy after the divorce. The court may order rehabilitative alimony so that a spouse can go to school or get training in order to earn more money. A spouse who is retrained in the skills needed to generate the necessary income is “rehabilitated.”
  • Alimony in Futuro (also called Periodic Alimony): Alimony in futuro is an order for support that will be paid over a long period of time to a spouse who is unable to earn enough income to enjoy an appropriate standard of living. The court may make this order in addition to an order for rehabilitative alimony when a spouse can only be partially rehabilitated or when rehabilitation is not possible because, for example, the financially disadvantaged spouse is unable to attend training or school. This type of alimony is more common where the marriage was long and the spouse has little chance of returning to the workforce at full capacity.
  • Transitional Alimony: Transitional alimony is support paid for a definite period of time when rehabilitation is not necessary but one spouse needs some time to adjust to new financial circumstances after separation or divorce.
  • Alimony in Solido (also called Lump Sum Alimony): Alimony in solido is a form of long term support. The court will calculate the total amount of support at the time of the order. Payments may be made in installments in a set amount over a certain period of time. The purpose of alimony in solido is to provide support, sometimes including attorney’s fees.

Factors the Court Considers in Making an Alimony Order

 When deciding whether to order alimony and in determining the type, amount, and manner of payments, as well as how long the order will be in place, the judge will consider:

  • each spouse’s earning ability, obligations, needs, and financial resources (including from pension or retirement accounts)
  • each spouse’s training and education, and whether they have the need and ability to obtain further education and training to improve their earning ability
  • the length of the marriage
  • the age and mental condition of each spouse
  • the physical condition of each spouse, including any physical incapacity due to a chronic disease
  • whether a spouse has custody of a minor child of the marriage and as a result finds it difficult to work outside the home
  • each spouse’s separate property
  • how the court divided the marital property in the divorce or separation
  • the standard of living the spouses shared during the marriage
  • how each party contributed to the marriage financially or as a homemaker, and whether either spouse helped the other achieve training, education, or increased income
  • the fault of each spouse, if the court finds it appropriate to consider fault, and
  • tax consequences of support payments to each spouse.

Duration of Alimony

How long an alimony order lasts depends on what type of alimony order the court makes.

  • Rehabilitative Alimony: A rehabilitative alimony order will last as long as the judge thinks it should reasonably take the supported spouse to reach the income goals. The court may increase or decrease the amount of the order, terminate the order early, or extend the end date if circumstances change. To increase the amount of the order or to extend the order beyond its original end date, the spouse receiving support will need to show evidence of having made all reasonable efforts to become rehabilitated. Rehabilitative alimony will end automatically if the supported spouse dies, and also if the paying spouse dies, unless the order states otherwise.
  • Alimony in Futuro: The court will order alimony in futuro on a long-term basis. The order will end if the supported spouse dies or remarries, and if the paying spouse dies, unless the order specifically states otherwise. In addition, the court may end or reduce alimony in futuro if the supported spouse begins to live with someone else, unless there’s evidence that the other person is not supporting or receiving support from the supported spouse.
  • Transitional Alimony: The court will order transitional alimony to last for as long as it’s anticipated the supported spouse will need to adjust to the new financial circumstances resulting from the divorce or separation. The order will end before its termination date if the supported spouse dies, and will also end if the paying spouse dies, unless the order specifically states otherwise. In addition, the court may end or reduce alimony in futuro if the supported spouse begins to live with someone else, unless there’s evidence that the other person is not supporting or receiving support from the supported spouse.
  • Alimony in Solido: Unlike the other types of alimony, alimony in solido does not end when a party dies, remarries, or lives with another person. The obligation to pay the lump sum amount continues until all payments are made.

Taxes on Spousal Maintenance

In general, the spouse paying support can deduct the payments from income. For the spouse receiving support, the payments count as income and are taxable.

Tenn. Code § 36-5-121

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