Facts: After 15 years of marriage, Husband and Wife divorced.
Wife was awarded a mixture of rehabilitative alimony, transitional alimony, and alimony in solido. The alimony in solido award was for Wife’s attorney’s fees and totaled $12,239.29.
The trial court granted Husband’s request to pay the alimony in solido in monthly installments of $203.99 over 72 months, but ordered that the judgment “carry the standard 10% interest for judgments.”
Wife appealed, arguing that Husband should have to pay the alimony in solido award in one lump sum rather than over 72 months.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part.
Alimony in solido is an award of a definite sum of alimony. It may be paid in installments so long as the payments are for a definite period of time and the sum of the alimony to be paid is ascertainable at the time it is awarded.
An award of attorney’s fees to an economically disadvantaged spouse is usually characterized as alimony in solido.
After reviewing the record, the Court affirmed the installment payments but reversed the 10% interest:
[W]e affirm the trial court’s award in the amount of $12,239.29. In light of [Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121(h)(1)’s] explicit allowance that these payments be made in installments, we reject Wife’s argument that the trial court erred by allowing Husband to make these payments and 72 equal installments over the course of six years.
[Regarding interest], Tennessee Code Annotated § 47-14-122 provides that “[i]nterest shall be computed on every judgment from the day on which the jury or the court, sitting without a jury, returned the verdict without regard to a motion for a new trial.” (Emphasis added.) Courts do not have discretion about whether to award interest on judgment; it is required by the statute.
The statute that addresses postjudgment interest is Tennessee Code Annotated § 47-14-121, which was amended in 2012. Before the amendment, the statute set the rate of interest on judgments at 10% per annum. Starting on July 1, 2012, and continuing to the present time, however, the interest rate on judgments fluctuates and is [published on the administrative office of the courts’ website]. . . .
The trial court filed its order directing Husband to pay Wife’s attorney’s fees as alimony in solido on June 29, 2016. According to the administrative office of the courts’ website, the interest rate applicable to judgments entered between January 1 and June 30, 2016, is 5.50% per annum. Thus, we remand the case to the trial court with directions to modify its order awarding Wife alimony in solido, dated June 29, 2016, to lower the interest rate on the judgment from 10% per annum to 5.50% per annum so that it complies with the version of Tennessee Code Annotated § 47-14-121 applicable at the time of trial.
Thus, the trial court’s award of postjudgment interest was nearly cut in half.
K.O.’s Comment: Family-law attorneys who attended our annual update seminar back in 2012 already know that the interest rate on judgments changed dramatically that year. From that point forward, the interest rate fluctuates every six months. You can always find the current and historical postjudgment interest rates here.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce and Family-Law Attorney.