Credit Card Payments Show Ability to Pay Alimony in Monroe County, Tennessee Divorce: Fabrizio v. Fabrizio

credit cardsFacts: Husband and Wife divorced after 21 years of marriage.

Both parties were employed during the marriage and contributed financially to the marital estate. Three years before the divorce, Wife began experiencing significant health problems. By the time of trial, Wife was no longer able to maintain employment and had no income. Meanwhile, Husband was employed and earning an annual income of $70,000.

Wife had applied for Social Security disability and her application was pending at the time of trial.

The trial court awarded Wife alimony in futuro in the amount of $2000 per month. If Wife’s Social Security disability claim is approved, then the trial court said it may reconsider the amount of the award.

Husband appealed.

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

Husband argued the trial court’s award of alimony in futuro in the amount of $2000 per month was excessive based on Wife’s need and his ability to pay.

Alimony in futuro, also known as periodic alimony, is a payment of support and maintenance on a long term basis or until death or remarriage of the recipient. Such alimony may be awarded when the court finds that there is relative economic disadvantage and that rehabilitation is not feasible.

In determining whether an order for payment of alimony is appropriate, and in determining the nature, amount, length of term, and manner of payment, Tennessee courts must consider all relevant factors set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121, including the relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each party.

After considering the evidentiary record, the Court of Appeals concluded:

By reason of the trial court’s determination that Wife established a need for the amount of alimony awarded and Husband demonstrated an ability to pay such amount, we conclude that the trial court correctly found Wife’s listed expenses to be reasonable and necessary, while determining that Husband’s listed expenses were not reasonable or necessary. Husband’s decision to amass a substantial amount of consumer debt via credit card and vehicle payments should not deprive Wife of having her reasonable needs met. Furthermore, the credit card bills introduced by Husband at trial demonstrated that the payments he listed on his expense statement exceeded the minimum monthly requirement in most cases. In addition, Husband was making contributions to his IRA on a monthly basis and also paying health club dues and other discretionary expenses….

Wife demonstrated a reasonable need for the spousal support awarded while Husband demonstrated the ability to pay such an award. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s award of spousal support to Wife.

K.O.’s Comment: What interests me about this case is the Court’s finding that Husband’s history of paying more than the minimum monthly payment on his credit card debt demonstrates, in part, his ability to pay alimony as ordered.

Fabrizio v. Fabrizio (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Section, October 29, 2015).

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

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K.O. Herston is a family-law attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee whose practice is devoted exclusively to family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and other aspects of family law.

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