In an early post on this blog, we discussed the various types of alimony available in Tennessee and how they are calculated. It is sometimes necessary, however, to modify the amount of alimony because of a change in circumstances to one or both parties.
In solido alimony (a single lump sum payment) is essentially non-modifiable unless both parties agree that it should be changed. Transitional alimony is also non-modifiable without a court order – these two forms of alimony are, obviously, temporary and should be set based on the status at the end of the marriage. Theoretically, no changes can occur before the obligation to pay runs out because there is not enough time.
Rehabilitative and in future (periodic) alimony can be modified or terminated in several ways. If either party dies, the obligation to pay ceases. If the recipient party cohabitates with a third party, the obligation to pay ceases. More importantly to most people, alimony can be modified by court order if one or both parties suffer (or enjoy) a “substantial and material change of circumstances.” The change must have occurred after the order was entered – otherwise, it would not be a change, but would instead be the way things were. The change furthermore must have been unforeseeable – this is not significantly restrictive because a foreseeable change would have been factored into the alimony calculation.
The determination of “substantial and material” is a matter of the court’s discretion. If there is a possibility that alimony in your case should be modified, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice in your state. For more information about alimony and other family law issues, click here.