Parties to divorce proceedings cannot predict the future with greater ability than others. Despite thoughtful planning, circumstances can change materially.
In Tennessee, modification of alimony depends on the type of alimony awarded and on the specific facts of each case. Three of the four types of alimony may be modified under certain circumstances: alimony in futuro, rehabilitative alimony and transitional alimony. One type of alimony cannot be modified under any circumstances: alimony in solido.
According to Tennessee law, alimony in futuro is modifiable upon a showing of a “substantial and material change of circumstances.”
In a recent case, Willet v. Taeubel, the Tennessee Court of Appeals considered modification of alimony in futuro. Husband and wife were divorced after a nineteen year marriage. Both were 67 years old. In the divorce decree, the judge ordered husband to pay $1,500 monthly as alimony in futuro. Several years after the divorce, the husband suffered a severe stroke, became totally disabled and was no longer employed.
Husband petitioned for termination based on a material change in his circumstances. The former wife opposed termination. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s finding that the husband’s stroke and resulting disability were unanticipated and found that “husband’s stroke and resulting inability to work were a ‘material’ change in circumstances for purposes of modifying or terminating alimony.”