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How alimony works

On Behalf of | Jan 10, 2017 | Divorce

Finances are among the major considerations for any couple planning to file for divorce. There are several aspects to think about, including division of assets, child support and alimony. The concept of alimony can be confusing to some, especially since there is not a straightforward calculation or even a guarantee that it will be awarded.

Either spouse can request alimony

Traditionally, alimony, or maintenance, was paid by the husband to the wife. This was because the typical scenario was that of a working husband and a stay-at-home wife. Even when both spouses were working, the wife’s income was generally a lot lower. Today, however, alimony can go either way because there is no assumption that the husband is the primary earner. It is important to note that alimony is not related to child support, which is solely for the benefit of the children and is determined according to very clear guidelines.

Amounts are based on a variety of factors

When a divorcing spouse requests alimony, a Tennessee court will generally consider several factors, such as if the requesting spouse actually needs that additional income. If he or she does not, alimony will be denied. What constitutes need is a subjective determination that depends on the facts of the case. Judges look at income and projected expenses after the divorce, including if one spouse will have more responsibility for the children. In this context, needing alimony does not mean being unable to meet even the most basic, pared-down expenses. Usually, courts will take into the spouse’s established standard of living when deciding what would be a fair expectation but do not require enabling the maintenance of the exact pre-divorce standard.

Considering specific circumstances means a fairer outcome

The court will also examine the other spouse’s ability to pay. Even if the requesting spouse really does need this income, there is no point in asking the other spouse to give something he or she does not have. The spouse being asked for alimony does not have to adopt a lower standard of living just to be able to pay alimony. That said, as many factors in an alimony determination, this is not a rule set in stone. Judges try to be fair to all parties and can tell when people are trying to misrepresent their circumstances or change their spending patterns.

Other factors the court will consider include a serious fault on one side, the length of the marriage, the respective contributions to the marriage (not necessarily financial). Other circumstances that can affect alimony include if one party reduced his or her earning capacity to raise the children or support the other spouse’s schooling or high-pressure career. If you are considering filing for divorce, an experienced attorney can answer your questions and help you continue your life on a solid financial footing.


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