Tennessee Appeals Court Grants Divorce Without Regard to Fault, Awards Spousal Support

There are many legal considerations involved in divorce proceedings, including fault-based divorce and alimony.  Recently, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee released an opinion addressing these issues in Jackson v. Jackson (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 4, 2016).  In Jackson, the parties had been married for 21 years when they filed for divorce, alleging irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct as statutory grounds.  Although the husband never had an extramarital affair, the wife argued that he had engaged in inappropriate relationships in which he gave money and gifts to other women and spent an inordinate amount of time with them.

After a hearing, the trial court divided the marital property and debt almost equally between the parties and granted the wife a divorce based upon the husband’s conduct.  The court also awarded the wife alimony in solido, but it denied her request for alimony in futuro.  On appeal, the issues for the court were whether the trial court erred in (1) awarding the divorce to the wife and (2) denying alimony in futuro.

In Tennessee, a court may grant a divorce to the party who was less at fault or, if either or both parties are entitled to a divorce or if a divorce is to be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, declare the parties to be divorced, rather than awarding a divorce to either party alone.  In Jackson, the appeals court found that both of the parties played a role in the demise of the marriage, citing the husband’s inappropriate relationships as well as the wife’s refusal to engage in any meaningful attempt at reconciliation.  As a result, the court reversed the lower court and granted the divorce without regard to fault.

Tennessee recognizes four different types of alimony:  rehabilitative alimony, transitional alimony, alimony in futuro, and alimony in solido.  Alimony in futuro is typically awarded when a spouse is economically disadvantaged and does not have an earning capacity that will allow him or her to maintain an appropriate standard of living.  This type of alimony is awarded on a long-term basis, or until the death or remarriage of the recipient spouse.  Alimony in solido refers to a definite, lump-sum award.  In setting the type, duration, and amount of spousal support, courts are guided by several statutory factors.

In Jackson, the appeals court agreed that an award of alimony in solido was appropriate, given the wife’s demonstrated need.  Moreover, the court also found that the record demonstrated the wife’s need for long-term spousal support until she could access her retirement benefits.  The court cited the husband’s increased earning capacity in the form of disability and retirement income, his ability to pay long-term support, and the wife’s inability to work.  Accordingly, the court awarded alimony in futuro to the wife.

If you have decided to end your marriage, an experienced family law attorney can guide you through the many legal considerations involved.  At MHPS, our divorce lawyers fight to protect the interests of people seeking property division, child custody, spousal support, and other aspects related to separation proceedings.  To learn more from one of our knowledgeable attorneys, contact MHPS at (615) 800-7096 or online and set up your consultation.

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