Church v. Church

February 7, 2011 K.O. Herston 1 Comments

Facts: After a divorce trial, Husband was ordered to pay alimony in futuro of $3000 per month. At the time, Wife was undergoing treatment for a life-threating illness. After trial, Wife’s treatment resulted in a dramatic improvement in her health. Husband lost his job and found new employment at a lower income. Citing his decreased pay and Wife’s improved circumstances, Husband sought to modify the alimony award. The trial court found a material change of circumstances but denied Husband’s petition. Husband appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

As to his ability to pay, Husband asserts that the trial court’s finding that his earning capacity with [his current employer] is approximately $100,000 per year means that his earning capacity is now 62.5% of what it was when he was working at [his former employer], earning approximately $160,000 per year. Husband argues that, while the reduction in his income is through no fault of his own, in contrast, Wife has the ability to work but chooses not to. . . .

As to Wife’s need, Husband notes that Wife’s health has improved and that her physician has not placed any restrictions on her work. He highlights the trial court’s finding that Wife has an earning capacity of approximately $20,000 to $25,000 per year. . . .

Husband contends overall that the proof shows that he no longer has the ability to pay the amount of alimony ordered in the divorce decree. Certainly the proof shows changes in Husband’s employment and his expenses, including expenses from his unfortunate investment choices. However, in weighing the evidence, the trial court stressed the fact that, despite these changes, Husband’s lifestyle had changed very little. This is an appropriate consideration. The evidence showed that, even after Husband lost his [] job, and after his real estate and other investments proved ill-fated, his pleasure trips, gambling trips, and purchase of luxury items continued virtually unabated. Even if Husband’s lifestyle is being financed by his liberal use of credit cards, his decision not to curtail these expenditures clearly undercuts his protestations that he is unable to pay the court-ordered amount of spousal support.

Husband’s argument about his inability to pay was challenged by this compelling evidence:

Husband said that he incurred expenses of some $1800-$2000 per month for dining out, including meals in Louisiana. He admitted spending $15,000 for tickets to the Nashville Predators, but said he recouped $11,000 by reselling the tickets to a third party. Husband also conceded that he spent several thousand dollars at Galaxy Golf during this time, as well as $17,814 for artwork and $13,867 for jewelry. Husband also reported a loss of $16,000 on two condominiums in Nashville, purchased for investment. Husband admitted traveling extensively for pleasure to destinations such as Mobile, Las Vegas, Chicago, New Orleans, San Diego, and Florida, and to various casinos; apparently a number of these trips occurred during his thirteen-month job search.

Church v. Church (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Dec. 20, 2010).

Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.

Church v. Church was last modified: January 30th, 2011 by K.O. Herston

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