The State of Tennessee has a complicated and subjective system of granting alimony, which is payment of financial support from one spouse to another.
Alimony in Tennessee is divided into four categories:
1. Rehabilitative Alimony
This type of alimony is largely self-explanatory. If one spouse needs to undergo more education in order to become self-sufficient, rehabilitative alimony will make this happen.
2. Alimony in Futuro
Alimony in futuro can be paid over and above rehabilitative alimony. If a former wife has received additional education (via rehabilitative alimony) and has increased her earning level but she still makes far less than her former husband, then she may be awarded alimony in futuroif the court feels that her income is still leaving her disadvantaged.
3. Transitional Alimony
Transitional alimony may be awarded temporarily to a spouse who needs financial assistance in adjusting to less income after divorce.
This would be a spouse who had an earning capacity close to that of the other spouse but who needed interim financial assistance in order to re-establish residence and pay for other changes necessitated by divorce.
4. Alimony in Solido
Alimony in solido is often misunderstood and used in place of the above three alimony types. It is most like a lump sum payment that is amortized over a few years. Tennessee divorce attorneys’ fees are paid out of alimony in solido, if awarded.
Awarded At the Judge’s Discretion
A Tennessee alimony award is at the total discretion of the judge.
When support is granted, it is based upon the need of the disadvantaged spouse and the other spouse’s ability to pay. If a client on either side of a divorce appeals the judge’s ruling, the case then goes through the long appellate process.
When a Tennessee divorce attorney appeals an alimony ruling, there are literally thousands of cases on the appellate books that will support that attorney’s argument on whether support should be granted.
The sheer number of appellate cases and inconsistent court rulings has substantially muddied the waters in Tennessee’s family courts substantially.
Tennessee Alimony Case Law
In the seminal case Gonsewski v. Gonsewski, the Tennessee Supreme Court heard arguments on the issues of alimony in futuro (for the wife) and alimony in solido (for the husband’s attorney fees).
In Gonsewski, the husband and wife’s annual incomes were $137,000 and $72,000, respectively. Although the wife was not considered by the lower courts to be “disadvantaged,” she contended that she should be entitled to receive permanent alimony in futuro because she wanted to continue living at the standard of living that she had enjoyed during her marriage.
Attorneys and judges alike were eager that a ruling in the Gonsewski case would lead to a system whereby set formulae for support amounts and duration would be introduced.
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled alimony in futuro should be based on the recipient’s need and, most importantly, disadvantage. The decision of the appellate court, which had granted Ms. Gonsewski alimony in futuro, was overturned, as was her husband’s request for alimony in solido, which the court deemed frivolous.
Read Related Article on MensRights.com: Tennessee Supreme Court Rules Against Lifetime Alimony
Tennessee still does not have a set formula for determining amount and duration of the state’s four types of alimony. It has been left solely to the discretion of the trial courts.
The only change in Tennessee’s alimony in futuro category is that it must be based on actual need and not a self-sufficient spouse’s desire to bring his or her lifestyle up to its pre-divorce level.