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Divorce, alimony and the standard of living

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Divorce

Divorce is hard on everyone, but in the long term, a divorce can be much harder on the finances of one ex-spouse than the other. In many marriages, one spouse earns more than the other, but because they share their income, they enjoy the same standard of living. When a couple like this divorces, the higher-earning spouse can often maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage, while the other spouse cannot. Tennessee courts sometimes order alimony (also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance) in divorce in order to help a financially disadvantaged spouse to maintain something close to the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage.

In the past, when women had fewer career options than today, alimony was quite common in divorce, and it was almost always paid by a man to a woman. Today, alimony isn’t as tied to gender as it once was, and it may be paid or received by either a man or a woman.

Still, on average, women still earn less than men. This can have profound implications after divorce. According to some sources, women see their standard of living decline by an average of 30% after divorce while men see their standard of living increase by an average of 10%.


Tennessee courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to order alimony, how much and for how long. When doing so, they consider all relevant factors, including:

  • The marriage’s duration
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The income, earning power and financial resources of each spouse
  • The division of the marital property in divorce
  • The education of each spouse, and whether one spouse would need further education or training to improve their earning capacity
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The contributions each spouse made to the marriage and to the increased earning power of the other spouse

These are just some of the factors courts can consider.