When couples divorce in Tennessee, state law allows courts to order one spouse to provide financial support to the other (the “supported spouse”). These payments are called alimony. When the supported spouse remarries, however, the paying spouse will usually want to stop making alimony payments.
This article explains how the remarriage or cohabitation of a supported spouse affects alimony under Tennessee law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony in Tennessee after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
In any divorce case, Tennessee courts can order one spouse to pay the other alimony. Alimony may be in the form of a transfer of property, a one-time payment, or periodic installments (also known as “periodic alimony"). Alimony can be ordered to help a non-working spouse get the education or training to get back into the workforce, or simply to allow a spouse to transition to new financial circumstances. In rare cases, such as very long-term marriages in which one spouse didn’t work, the court may award alimony for life. The most common type of alimony is periodic alimony, paid monthly, until the death of either spouse or some other event occurs.
Tennessee judges consider several factors when deciding alimony, including:
If you would like to know more about alimony in Tennessee, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Tennessee.
In Tennessee, periodic alimony ends immediately upon the supported spouse’s remarriage. The paying spouse doesn’t have to return to court for a separate court order ending alimony; he or she may just stop making payments on the date of the supported spouse’s marriage. The paying spouse must still make any payments that are due as of the date of marriage.
The supported spouse’s remarriage doesn’t affect the paying spouse’s obligation to pay lump-sum alimony. If a paying spouse was ordered to transfer property or make a lump-sum payment, and the supported spouse remarries, the paying spouse must still transfer the property or make the payment.
In some circumstances, the paying spouse’s remarriage can affect alimony. If the paying spouse’s financial obligations increase significantly, the court will take that into consideration along with all other factors when deciding whether to change the alimony payment.
Tennessee courts have the authority to increase or decrease periodic alimony if either spouse’s financial circumstances change significantly, unless the divorce decree specifically states that alimony cannot be modified. Either spouse can file a motion to ask the court to modify or terminate alimony.
The court may consider any of the following factors when deciding whether to modify alimony:
If you want to change alimony in your case, you’ll need to file a motion to modify or terminate alimony in your local circuit or chancery court clerk’s office. The court will schedule a hearing where you’ll have to prove the changed circumstances that warrant the change in alimony. Keep in mind that the change must be substantial; a small raise for a supported spouse or a small decrease in income for a paying spouse are unlikely to change alimony.
You can avoid going to court if you and your ex-spouse agree to change alimony. In this case, put your new agreement in writing, make sure it’s signed by both spouses, and submit it to the court clerk’s office for the judge’s approval.
Cohabitation generally means that two unmarried people are living together. In Tennessee, if the supported spouse is cohabiting with another person, the court will assume that he or she no longer needs alimony, unless proven otherwise. The supported spouse would have to prove that he or she still has a need for some or all of the alimony payments the court previously ordered. Alternatively, you can agree in your divorce decree that alimony ends automatically upon cohabitation.
If you are paying alimony and your ex-spouse begins living with someone else, you should file a motion to modify or terminate alimony. You should gather evidence showing that your ex-spouse is living long-term with another person, as well as evidence that your ex-spouse’s financial needs have decreased as a result of the new living situation.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact a Tennessee family law attorney for help.