After a few years of paying alimony, you might say to yourself “I’ve been paying all this money to my ex-spouse for a long time.  The situation is a lot different than it was when we got divorced.  Can I stop the payments?

The answer, as is so often in legal questions, is: “Maybe yes, maybe no.”   In Tennessee, there are four different types of alimony, and each are treated differently when a court sets the payment amount, and when a court decides when the spousal support should be modified or terminated.

Go to your papers

The first place to look is your final decree of divorce.  This document should include language describing what type of spousal support is to be paid, the amount of the payments, how long the payments will be made, as well as any other conditions the court may set.

Odds are you had an irreconcilable differences divorce, which means the terms were all determined by an agreement between the parties.  This gave you the opportunity to include conditions that would stop the support when the person receiving support gets married, dies, or any other terms you may have agreed upon.  For example, I had a case where we included a provision that the wife’s transitional alimony would terminate if she found a job that would pay above a certain amount per year.

Guide to alimony termination

According to Tennessee statutes, certain types of spousal support will terminate upon certain conditions, unless otherwise ordered by the court.  Again, go back to your divorce papers and see what type of support payments were ordered.  Unless stated otherwise, payments stop as follows:

Rehabilitative alimony: This type of support will continue as long as was ordered by the court, or until the death of either the recipient or the payor.

Alimony in futuro: As above, this form of spousal support continues as ordered by the court, but will terminate upon the death of either the recipient or the payor.

Also, if the person receiving support begins living with a third person, the court is instructed to presume that the third person is contributing to the support of the recipient, and therefore the support should be reduced or terminated entirely.  The person receiving alimony does have the opportunity to  show the court why the payments should continue.

Finally, the support will end automatically if the recipient gets remarried.  If the person receiving support doesn’t notify the paying spouse immediately of the marriage, the paying spouse can get back the money he paid after the marriage.

Transitional alimony: This is similar to alimony in futuro in that it terminates upon the death of either party, and the court can stop all or part of the support if the receiving spouse lives with a third party.

However, it does not terminate if the recipient gets remarried.  The statute does specifically say that the court may order that rehabilitative alimony will terminate upon certain conditions, including the remarriage of the receiving party.

Alimony in solido: This form of support does not terminate under any conditions.  Even if both parties were to die, the estate of the payor would be required to make the payments to the estate of the recipient.

When spousal support can be modified

If terminating the payments isn’t an option, sometimes a court can modify certain forms of support payments.  The modification can be an increase, decrease, lengthen or shorten the amount of time the payments are to be made.

Rehabilitative alimony or Alimony in futuro:  Either of these forms of spousal support can be modified by a court, if either of the parties can show that a material change in circumstances has occurred.  These cases really depend on your unique facts, but the change of circumstances will have to be an event that was not anticipated by the parties at the time of the divorce.

Transitional alimony: Transitional alimony cannot be modified by a court unless, at the time of the divorce, it was stated in the final decree that future modifications were allowed.   However, as stated above, if the recipient lives with a third person the payments can be reduced or changed.

Alimony in solido: This type of spousal support cannot be modified by the court under any circumstances.

Get some help!

These rules are confusing, and even if you can remember the rules there always seems to be an exception somewhere.  If you feel like your alimony payments should be modified or terminated, or if your ex wants to cut off your support, contact me so we can talk about how to fix this problem.