Tennessee courts consider various factors when determining alimony, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, each spouse's physical and mental health, the needs of the requesting spouse, and the ability of the other spouse to pay. The objective is to ensure fairness and prevent undue financial hardship on either party post-divorce.
Spousal support can last for years or for a set period based on the specific type of alimony you receive or pay. However, regardless of the type of alimony awarded, payments will end if the recipient spouse remarries or cohabitates with another person, which we will discuss in further detail below.
Types of Alimony in Tennessee
In a divorce settlement in Tennessee, there are several variants of alimony that could be awarded, each serving a distinct purpose. The type of alimony awarded greatly affects the duration of the alimony payments. The four different types of alimony include:
Rehabilitative alimony. This is typically temporary and aims to support the lower-earning spouse until they become financially independent. Often, it is awarded in cases where one spouse has given up career opportunities to support the family and needs time to gain skills or education to re-enter the workforce.
Permanent alimony. This type of alimony is awarded when the court believes that the recipient spouse will never be able to achieve an income level comparable to the other spouse. It is usually awarded after long-term marriages and continues until the recipient's remarriage or the death of either party.
Transitional (or temporary) alimony. This type of alimony serves as a bridge to adjust to the economic realities of post-divorce life. It is typically awarded in cases where rehabilitation is not required, but the recipient spouse needs financial assistance to adjust to a new lifestyle.
Lump-sum alimony. This is a fixed amount, typically used to cover legal expenses or specific post-divorce needs. It is not modifiable and survives the death or remarriage of the recipient.
Read our blog, “The Four Types of Alimony in Tennessee,” to learn more.
Remarriage & Cohabitation End Alimony in Tennessee
Under Tennessee law, the obligation to pay alimony automatically terminates upon the recipient's remarriage or cohabitation with a third party, unless otherwise stipulated in the divorce decree or the parties' marital dissolution agreement.
The termination of alimony due to cohabitation depends on certain criteria. The purpose of cohabitation, the support provided by the new partner, and the length of the relationship are all factors considered by the court. For instance, if the recipient is cohabitating with someone who significantly contributes to their support, it may be grounds for termination or reduction of alimony.
Does a Person’s Death Terminate Alimony in TN?
When the payor dies, the fate of alimony payments largely depends on the type of alimony that was awarded. While permanent alimony is typically terminated when either party dies, lump-sum alimony (that is still being paid out) is not affected by the death of the payor.
If an ex-spouse is still owed a lump sum payment, they can hold the decedent’s estate liable for the remaining payments. It is important to note that the executor of the deceased's estate plays a significant role in this process. They are responsible for ensuring that any remaining alimony obligations are met from the estate's assets.
The Role of Marital Settlement Agreements
A marital settlement agreement (MSA) can offer additional protection for alimony payments. Through an MSA, a person can designate life insurance policy beneficiaries, including an ex-spouse.
This means that even if the payor dies, the recipient can still receive financial support through the life insurance payout. While including an ex-spouse on a life insurance policy is optional, this step can be taken as insurance or extra security that the recipient is financially taken care of, regardless of unforeseen circumstances.
Need an experienced and compassionate Chattanooga alimony attorney? Look no further than the attorneys at Conner & Roberts, PLLC. Call (423) 299-4489 to schedule an initial consultation.