By Jedidiah McKeehan

One of the questions that I often navigate with people who are going through a divorce is, “how much alimony will I get?” Or perhaps it’s the opposite of that question, “how much alimony will I have to pay?”

The Tennessee law on alimony (it can also be called spousal support) is very long-winded and confusing and can be found at Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-5-121. Even if you read that law, you will still have no idea how much alimony is going to be awarded.

What I tell people is that there is no formula for how long alimony is awarded for or for what amount, but here are some general guidelines as to whether alimony is on the table for discussion and the length for which it may be awarded:

  1. Alimony is typically not going to be awarded if you have been married less than seven years
  2. Except in extremely long-term marriages (30 years or more), alimony is typically only awarded for one-third the length of the marriage, at most
  3. Is there a significant difference in the income of the parties? If the parties make the same amount of money, or close to it, alimony is not typically going to be awarded

As to the amount, Tennessee law states that the two primary considerations in determining the amount of alimony awarded are: the need for alimony by the person requesting it and the ability to pay alimony by the person from whom it is being requested.

How do we determine what is needed? A monthly budget is put together for the person requesting it to see how short they are on their monthly bills. Their monthly deficit is their need for the purpose of requesting alimony. Will that person always get the amount of their deficit? No, of course not but that is the starting point for what the amount of their monthly alimony request will be.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.