Legal Memorandum: Award of Alimony in TN

Issue: When is alimony awarded in a Tennessee marital dissolution action?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Alimony; Marital dissolution action
Jurisdiction: Tennessee
Cited Cases: 988 S.W.2d 675
Cited Statutes: Tenn. Code § 36-5-101(d)
Date: 04/01/2001

           The applicable statute allows the trial court to award rehabilitative alimony when one spouse is economically disadvantaged relative to the other spouse.  Tenn. Code § 36-5-101(d) (Supp. 2000).  It also provides that when, considering all relevant factors, rehabilitation is not feasible, the trial court may award long-term or permanent alimony.  Id.  Relevant factors include:  each party’s earning capacity, relative to the other’s earning capacity; each party’s education and opportunities to secure further education, relative to the other’s; the length of the marriage; each party’s age and health; whether it would be undesirable for the party with custody of a minor child to have employment outside the home because of his or her role as custodian; the parties’ separate assets; the disposition of marital property; the standard of living during the marriage; each party’s contribution to the marriage, relative to the other’s contributions; relative fault, if appropriate; and, other relevant factors.  Id.  The most important factors are the disadvantaged spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay.  Anderton v. Anderton, 988 S.W.2d 675, 693 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998).

In the case of Storey v. Storey, 835 S.W.2d 593, 597 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1992), the court read the statute as preferring temporary, rehabilitation alimony for the economically disadvantaged spouse rather than permanent or long-term alimony.  However, “[t]here are no hard and fast rules for spousal support decisions.  Trial courts have broad discretion to determine whether spousal support is needed and, if so, its nature, amount, and duration.”  Anderton, 988 […]

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