Can Lump Sum Alimony Be Changed To Future Long Term Alimony?

Alimony is a term defined by several types of post divorce monetary support from one spouse to another. Per T.C.A 36-5-121, alimony can be awarded if the court deems that a person will suffer economic detriment once the marriage has been terminated. When awarding alimony in Tennessee, it is the intention of the Court to allow the Divorce Alimony Moneyeconomically disadvantaged spouse’s standard of living to be maintained at a comparable standard post divorce.

In Tennessee, there are four types of alimony a court awards after divorce: rehabilitative alimony, alimony in futuro, transitional alimony, and alimony in solido. Recent Tennessee Court of Appeals alimony case of Romelio R. Ruiz v. Sheila Lea Ruiz involved a ruling based upon examination of alimony in futuro and alimony in solido which are defined as follows:

• Alimony in futuro is post divorce support intended for a disadvantaged spouse who the court has determined cannot be financially rehabilitated due to age, physical or mental ailments, etc. This is ordered for long periods of time, typically until one has remarried or death of either the payee or payor.

• Alimony in solido  is a lump-sum form of post divorce support for which the exact amount of the support is known and arrived at by agreement of the parties or calculated by the Court. It can be ordered to be paid in a lump sum or in payments for date certain.

The facts of the Ruiz case are as follows: Romelio and Sheila Ruiz’ marriage lasted 30 years. Ms. Ruiz had been a stay-at-home mom and homemaker for the couple’s three sons while Mr. Ruiz was the family breadwinner earning approximately $130,000 per year. Ms. Ruiz had little to no earnings history, a high school education, and was found capable of only earning minimum wage.

The trial court ordered Mr. Ruiz to pay alimony in solido of $1300 per month for five years but Ms. Ruiz appealed arguing the trial court erred by not awarding her alimony in futuro.

In delivering its decision the Tennessee Court of Appeals took note of the large difference between the spouses’ earning potential due to the approximate $16,000 per year Ms. Ruiz would likely earn at a minimum wage job given she only had the high school education and very little work experience. The Court also found Ms. Ruiz to be limited by her physical and mental health problems including chronic pain, depression, and anxiety issues as well as her being aged 50 years at the time of the divorce. Because Ms. Ruiz demonstrated a need for long-term spousal support, and demonstrated that she was incapable of being rehabilitated, the appellate court found it appropriate to change the trial court’s award of alimony in solido to an award of alimony in futuro.

The key to having your rights under the law protected when going through divorce and negotiating alimony where applicable is retaining the services of a competent, experienced attorney. Contact Donna Wagner to schedule a consultation.

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