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Modification of alimony in the state of Tennessee -- Part I

During a divorce, one of the most contested issues can be alimony or spousal support. There can be different types of alimony in the state of Tennessee, including rehabilitative alimony, transitional alimony, alimony in futuro or alimony in solido. The type of alimony awarded depends on the set of circumstances under which a divorce decree is finalized. According to Tennessee law, all types of alimony, except alimony in solido, can be modified by means of an appeal in the event of certain unavoidable situations.

Unavoidable situations could mean a "substantial and material change of circumstances" in the obligor's or the recipient's life. Per Tennessee law, "substantial" changes are those which have a significant impact on a recipient's need for financial support or the obligor's capacity to pay alimony. Again, "material" changes mean circumstances that have occurred after the original alimony was awarded by the court. Additionally, for alimony modification, the changes must not have been foreseeable when the original award was given by the court.

When a Tennessee resident approaches the court for modifications of alimony, that resident must first establish the mandatory "substantial and material change of circumstances" before proving that the person is entitled to the modification. It is important to remember that a change of circumstances in itself does not entitle a petitioner to an alimony modification order. However, if separating spouses are able to foresee a change of circumstances, they may not have to establish "substantial and material change of circumstances" when they seek modifications in the future.

The changes in circumstances that Tennessee courts usually consider substantial and material depend largely on the amount of income and resources that a person has or needs after a divorce. For example, an obligor's increased earning or a recipient's decreased earning, or vice-versa, can be considered valid grounds for alimony modifications. Similarly, remarriage, relocation, change in taxation rules, income from the sale of property, inheritances and retirement are also some other major factors that Tennessee courts consider valid while hearing a case pertaining to alimony modification.

Source: TNAlimony.org, "Alimony Bench Book," Accessed on Jan. 23, 2015

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