Posted by: koherston | August 6, 2012

Permanent Alimony Rejected for Stay-At-Home Parent: Edwards v. Edwards

Facts: The parties divorced after 23 years of marriage. Wife was 53 years old and Husband was 56 at the time of divorce. Husband earned approximately $200,000 per year. Wife, a college graduate, worked for the first 12 years of the marriage but spent the remainder of the marriage as a homemaker and stay-at-home mother. The proof showed that the parties “lived a life of luxury throughout their marriage.” After a trial in which Wife requested permanent alimony, the trial court awarded Wife transitional alimony of $2,000 per month for four years. Wife also received nearly $1 million in assets from the division of marital property. Wife appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Wife argued she needed an award of alimony in futuro of at least $6,825 per month in order to enjoy anything resembling the marital standard of living.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121(f)(1) provides that alimony in futuro may be awarded

when the court finds that there is relative economic disadvantage and that rehabilitation is not feasible, meaning that the disadvantaged spouse is unable to achieve, with reasonable effort, an earning capacity that will permit the spouse’s standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, or to the post-divorce standard of living expected to be available to the other spouse, considering the relevant statutory factors and the equities between the parties.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121(g)(1) provides that transitional alimony is appropriate when the trial court determines “the economically disadvantaged spouse needs assistance to adjust to the economic consequences of a divorce . . . .” Transitional alimony helps the economically disadvantaged spouse make the transition from living as a married person to living as a single person.

The legislature has established a preference for short term alimony over long-term alimony to help the economically disadvantaged spouse become more self-sufficient. In fact, the Tennessee Supreme Court has directed that “alimony in futuro should be awarded only when the court finds that economic rehabilitation is not feasible or long-term support is necessary.”

After reviewing the record, the Court noted:

Wife was 53 years old at the time of trial and has a university degree. While she testified to some health concerns, she did not suggest these concerns would prevent her from working. The court determined she should be able to find a job providing her with a reasonable income and benefits, and we believe the preponderance of the evidence supports this finding.

Importantly, the Court found that while “Wife may not be able to return to her pre-divorce standard of living, [] there is no evidence that Husband will return to his pre-divorce standard of living or that Wife’s standard of living will be lower than Husband’s standard of living post-divorce.”

Accordingly, the trial court was affirmed.

Edwards v. Edwards (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, June 19, 2012).

Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Matrimonial, Divorce and Family Law Attorney.


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