Husband and wife meet in dental school. After starting their dental practice together, the couple has twins. The husband agrees to leave the dental practice and stay at home with the children while the wife runs the dental practice. The wife works long hours making the practice into one of largest in the area. Through the husband’s role as primary caretaker of the twins, he meets a lady whose children are in the same class as his children. The two strike up a friendship that turns into a romantic relationship. The wife finds out about the husband’s affair and files for divorce after 19 years of marriage.
The court awards the wife a divorce based on the grounds of the husband’s adultery. The husband then seeks alimony from the wife. What is the outcome? He cheated on her, so why should he be entitled to alimony?
What you need to know about alimony in Tennessee:
Alimony is a form of monetary spousal support that is awarded to one spouse in the event of a divorce. The purpose of alimony is to avoid any unfair economic consequences of divorce. Alimony is not awarded simply because one spouse cheats on another – instead there must be evidence that one spouse will be at an economic disadvantage after the divorce.
The factors Tennessee trial courts consider when determining alimony:
The Tennessee legislature provides that courts must consider all of the following relevant factors when determining whether to grant alimony and the nature, amount, length of term, and manner of payment. (TCA 36-5-121(i))
(1) The relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each party.
(2) The relative education and training of each party, the ability and opportunity of each party to secure education and training, and the necessity of a party to secure further education and training to improve their earning capacity to a reasonable level.
(3) The length of the marriage.
(4) The age and mental condition of spouse.
(5) The physical condition of each spouse.
(6) If it would be undesirable for a party to seek employment - because the party will be the custodian of a child.
(7) The separate assets of each spouse.
(8) The provisions made with regard to the marital property.
(9) The standard of living during the marriage.
(10) The extent to which each party has made such tangible and intangible contributions to the marriage.
(11) The relative fault of the spouses.
(12) Other factors necessary to considering the equities between the parties (including the tax consequences to each party).
Decisions regarding alimony turn upon the unique facts of each case.
Most important factors when considering an alimony award in Tennessee:
According to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the two most important factors in determining alimony are 1) the disadvantaged spouse’s need and 2) the obligor spouse’s ability to pay.
Effect of one spouse’s extramarital affairs on an alimony award in Tennessee:
When determining alimony, the court takes into account the relative fault of each the parties in the divorce. If the ground for divorce was adultery and the divorce was granted based on this, the court takes into account the fact that one spouse cheated on the other.
Effect of one spouse serving as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent on an alimony award in Tennessee:
The Tennessee legislature provides that: One spouse’s contributions to the marriage as a homemaker or (stay-at-home) parent are of equal dignity and importance as the other spouse’s economic contributions to the marriage. Where one spouse suffers economic detriment for the benefit of the marriage (by being a homemaker or stay-at-home parent), the legislature finds that the economically disadvantaged spouse's standard of living after the divorce should be 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.
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 above – Maybe so. Maybe not. See Alimony: Part Two.