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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

TN Supreme Court to decide significant alimony case, P.1

A recent Tennessee Supreme Court case could change the way alimony is award in that state.

Currently under consideration by that court is the question of when a divorced party may or may not receive lifetime alimony payments.

The case, which was still under consideration as of last Thursday, involves a couple from Hendersonville who has been engage in legal battles concerning their divorce since 2007.

When the ex-wife filed for divorce back in 2007, the couple had been married for 21 years and had two children. When their divorce was finalized in 2009, the ex-wife was 43 and making $72,000 at her job in information technology with the state of Tennessee. At that time the husband made $137,000 a year as a controller for a big corporation. Shortly after their divorce, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ordered the ex-husband to pay $1,250 per month in alimony to his ex-wife for life or until remarriage.

Such long-term alimony arrangements tends to be reserved for individuals over the age of 50, most often to a woman who has been married for a long time, has sacrificed her career to take care of the family and who can’t find work that will allow her to continue living her former lifestyle.

It isn’t clear how often this type of alimony is actually awarded, since neither the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts nor the Internal Revenue Service tracks alimony.

A Circuit Court judge previously said that the ex-wife should not be given any alimony, but the Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, deciding that the alimony was justified since the husband earned significantly more than his wife in the several years prior to their divorce, and that the disparity continued to grow.

Since their divorce, the ex-husband has remarried. He feels that his ex-wife does not deserve the alimony because of her salary and her state pension. The wife, however, feels the alimony is justified because she worked two jobs to put him through school. She also feels that the alimony is justified since he cheated on her, a claim which the husband denies. The ex-husband’s attorney said the couple helped support one another 20 years ago, and that the ex-wife hasn’t held two jobs for the last 16 or 17 years.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this Tennessee alimony case.

Source: The Tennessean, “TN case could be ‘game changer’ on lifetime alimony,” Sheila Burke, 10 Mar 2011.