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Tennessee Case Throws Out Alimony When Wife Makes Enough

A recent and highly anticipated Tennessee Supreme Court decision will have an important impact on divorce settlements and alimony in that state. The Tennessee case wrestled with the issue of whether alimony was appropriate for a spouse with a substantial income and, if it was, for how long should the alimony last. The case could end up influencing other states as well. When courts rule on new areas of family law, states often look to decisions elsewhere to see how other states have handled the matter.

The couple in the case divorced in 2009. The wife makes $72,000 a year working in information technology for the state, and the husband makes over $100,000 as a controller for a large corporation. At the initial trial level, the judge ruled that the woman should not receive any alimony. The woman appealed that decision, and the appeals court found in her favor, ordering her ex-husband to pay her $1,250 a month until she died or remarried.

The state’s supreme court had the final say in the matter and came down on the husband’s side. It ruled that lifetime alimony was not appropriate when the spouse has a sufficient salary and received substantial assets from the divorce settlement. The court pointed out that alimony aims to help divorced spouses transition from marriage to single life, particularly when they were not working while they were married. The wife in this case, the court wrote, could support herself just fine.

The court opinion also went into another area of divorce law that is important when making alimony decisions – evidence of marital lifestyle. If alimony is supposed to ease a transition from marriage to single life, the spouse seeking alimony should put on as much evidence as possible to establish what the couple’s marital lifestyle was. In the absence of any proof that the wife in the Tennessee case could not carry on her single life on her own, the court found that alimony served no purpose.

John K. Grubb & Associates, P.C. – Houston divorce attorneys

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