DETERMINING ALIMONY in Tennessee [part 2]

Part 2 of a 2-Part Series: How to Determine Alimony in Tennessee

Family Law | Alimony | Divorce Decree Modifications | Tennessee

Is the cheating husband, who sacrificed his career as a successful dentist to be a stay-at-home dad, awarded alimony? 

In light of the information provided in Alimony: Part 1 – Maybe so. Maybe not. Below we examine the strongest arguments from both the husband and the wife’s perspective. 


In Tennessee, one of the relevant factors the court takes into consideration when determining whether alimony should be awarded is the relative fault of each party in the divorce. 

In this case, the wife will argue that 1) when filing for divorce, her ground for divorce was adultery; 2) the court granted her the divorce based on evidence that supported her husband’s adulterous behavior; and 3) the court must take into account the fact that her husband cheated on her and therefore the divorce was his fault. Therefore, because the divorce was her husband’s fault, she should not have to pay him alimony. 

The husband can argue one of two things. Argument 1: The Tennessee Supreme Court held that the two most important factors in determining alimony are 1) the disadvantaged spouse’s need and 2) the obligor spouse’s ability to pay. Under this set of facts, the husband is the economically disadvantaged spouse. Without his wife’s income from the dental practice, he does not have an income of his own and he is not financially independent. Conversely, the wife has a well-established dental practice and is financially independent. Therefore, the husband will argue that he has a need for financial support and she has the ability to give him financial support. 

Argument 2: Tennessee law provides that both the homemaker or stay-at-home spouse’s contributions to the marriage and the working spouse’s economic contributions to the marriage are treated as equal contributions. Tennessee law goes on to say that when one spouse takes on the role of homemaker or stay-at-home parent and suffers an economic detriment for the benefit of the marriage, the court should provide the economically disadvantaged spouse with a standard of living that is reasonably comparable 1) to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage or 2) to the standard of living that the other spouse will enjoy after the divorce. 

In this case, the husband agreed to leave the practice of dentistry and stay at home with the couple’s children. He could have chosen to pursue being a dentist and run the dental practice with his wife. If he had chosen that path, he would not be the economically disadvantaged spouse. Instead, he chose to be the homemaker and stay-at-home parent, so that his wife could focus her energies and efforts on establishing and building the most successful dental practice in the area. Without his contributions at home and to his family, the wife would not have been able to build the practice that she currently operates. Therefore, the husband will argue that he suffered an economic detriment for the benefit of his marriage and family and, consequently, he should be awarded alimony. 


How will the court likely rule?

The Tennessee Supreme Court consistently recognizes that trial courts in Tennessee have broad discretion to determine whether alimony is needed. The trial courts’ decision regarding alimony is factually driven and involves the careful balancing of many factors. Therefore, it is up to the wife’s attorney and the husband’s attorney to craft an effective argument on behalf of their respective clients. The attorney who has the better argument wins. 

No matter how strong your case may be, without a skilled Nashville family law attorney who is an effective communicator, skilled at the art of persuasion, you are less likely to have your case presented in an effective, winning manner. Contact Collins Legal today to schedule a consultation.


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→  Make sure you read Part One of this series! 

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