How Does Domestic Violence Impact Alimony in a Tennessee Divorce?


Divorces can be painful, and they only become more so if aggravating factors like domestic violence emerge in an already very difficult situation. But if the soon-to-be-former spouse you are divorcing has been violent against you, you may be able to use that argument to argue for spousal assistance. Keep reading to learn about Tennessee law and alimony in the context of domestic violence. If you are trying to find a way forward after surviving domestic violence, consider contacting a Memphis domestic violence lawyer. We’ve dealt with many similar cases and we’ll bring that experience to advocate for your best future.

What is the Legal Definition of Domestic Violence in Tennessee?

The legal definition of domestic violence is often fairly different from the presumed meaning we use in our day-to-day conversations.

In Tennessee, domestic abuse is defined according to the behavior and who is doing said behavior.

There is a fairly large range of people who can be guilty of domestic violence, including current and former spouses, parents, siblings, extended family members, a current or former relative through marriage, and even someone with whom you only went on a date once.

Behavior by the above category of people which would be considered domestic violence includes intentional or reckless physical harm, provocative or offensive physical contact, threats of such physical harm, stalking, harassment, sexual abuse, isolation, and emotional and financial abuse.

Tennessee Divorce Laws in Light of Domestic Violence

Tennessee is among several states in the U.S. that permit “fault” and “no-fault divorce.” As the name implies, the divorce types are distinguished by whether one spouse alleges another caused the deterioration in the relationship.

In a “fault” divorce, one or both spouses may allege misconduct and the judge themselves may also assign blame. Common kinds of misconduct used as grounds for a fault divorce include adultery, drug and alcohol abuse, and cruel or inhuman treatment, which itself includes domestic violence.

With “no-fault” divorces, on the other hand, neither ex-spouse alleges misconduct. Instead, they cite irreconcilable differences as their reason for ending the marriage.

What is Alimony?

Alimony is a financial support order by a court from one ex-spouse to another in a divorce. The legislative intent of alimony has traditionally been seen as a compensatory measure to assist one spouse, often the homemaker of the former relationship whose sacrifices the court is thereby honoring.

Alimony is meant as needs-based temporary assistance while this former spouse gets back on their feet. It is gender neutral and granted after considering many factors, among which are the earning capacity of each ex-spouse, the education and training of each, the age and health of each, how long the marriage lasted, and how much fault each ex-spouse bears for the end of the relationship.

Because alimony is not intended to be punitive, how much weight domestic violence receives will depend on the judge, but domestic violence may have a better chance of convincing a court than the other grounds considered for alimony.