Evolution of alimony law has produced considerable changes

In the beginning, Tennessee courts only allowed a divorce from "bed and board," that is, where the marriage was not dissolved completely and the wife was in need of support. Following suit, the state legislature, in 1835 and 1842, enacted statutes that allowed the court to provide for a "suitable allowance" from the property of the husband. Since then, however, the General Assembly has continually made changes in the alimony laws in an effort to reflect the changes in the attitudes and practices of local society.


The first change in traditional alimony law came in 1858, when the Tennessee Legislature enacted a series of statutes to allow the courts to award alimony (either periodic or lump sum) in cases of absolute divorce, in other words, where the marriage was dissolved completely and the wife could remarry. Then, throughout the years, the following additional changes were made:

In 1983, the legislature enacted a statute that allowed for "rehabilitative and temporary" alimony.

In 1984, the legislature amended the statute to state " it is the intent of the general assembly that a spouse who is economically disadvantaged relative to the other spouse be rehabilitated whenever possible by the granting of an order for the payment of rehabilitative, temporary support and maintenance."

In 1993, the legislature created a third type of alimony, rehabilitative alimony, separate from lump-sum and periodic alimony.

In 2003, the legislature created a fourth type of alimony, transitional alimony, to be awarded when rehabilitation was not necessary, but when a spouse needed temporary assistance.

The present state of the law

In 2013, when considering whether to award alimony, whether it should be permanent or temporary, and the amount, the court must consider the following:

  • The earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each party.
  • The relative education and training of each party.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and mental condition of each party.
  • The physical condition of each party.
  • Whether a party will be the custodian of a minor child of the marriage.
  • The separate assets of each party, real and personal, tangible and intangible.
  • The standard of living during the marriage.
  • The contributions of each party to the marriage.
  • The relative fault of each party.
  • Other equitable factors, including tax consequences.

In today's society, there is a variety of different families, from the traditional to the innovative. The family structure may be composed of husband and wife, with or without minor children. One or both spouses may work outside the home. The education and job experiences, and the property and assets, of each spouse may vary widely.

As can be seen from the history and present state of alimony law, Tennessee has tried to keep pace with these societal changes, from its original "one size fits all" approach, to its present many-faceted approach. Given the complexity of all of the factors (legal and societal) that go into the decision of whether or not to seek a divorce and alimony, not to mention to additional emotional factors that may come into play, it is important to contact an attorney who can give you the representation you need and to provide you with the legal results that you deserve.