Facts: Husband and Wife divorced after 24 years of marriage. Wife served as a stay-at-home mother while Husband worked in his medical practice.
The trial court equally divided the marital property, with each party receiving assets totaling $3.4 million.
After finding that Wife had suffered economic detriment for the benefit of the marriage, the trial court awarded Wife alimony in futuro of $5000 per month plus alimony in solido of $4500 per month for 10 years. Husband was also ordered to maintain a $1 million life insurance policy to secure payment of Wife’s alimony awards.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals modified the trial court’s ruling.
Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121(l) gives the trial court the authority to order a party to maintain life insurance to secure the payment of an alimony obligation. Specifically, the statute states:
To secure the obligation of one party to pay alimony to or for the benefit of the other party, the court may direct a party to designate the other party as the beneficiary of, and to pay the premiums required to maintain, any existing policies insuring the life of a party, or to purchase and pay the premiums required to maintain such new or additional life insurance designating the other party the beneficiary of the insurance, or a combination of these, as the court deems appropriate.
Similarly, Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-4-121(e)(2) authorizes the trial court to impose a lien on marital property awarded to a party to secure the payment of alimony.
Wife’s award of alimony in solido of $4500 per month for 10 years is fundamentally an award of a definite sum of money, i.e., $540,000 payable in monthly installments over 10 years. The sum is payable in full, regardless of future events such as the death of Husband or the remarriage of Wife. It is a vested right not subject to modification. Conversely, the alimony in futuro award of $5000 per month is subject to modification in the future.
Husband argued the expense of maintaining a $1 million life insurance policy would be cost prohibitive.
With Husband being awarded $3.4 million in assets, the Court felt a $1 million life insurance policy to secure payment of the alimony award was unnecessary:
Under appropriate circumstances, courts have placed a lien on the obligor spouse’s property to secure the payment of alimony in solido in lieu of requiring the maintenance of a life insurance policy. Because the award of alimony in solido is for a definite sum, we conclude that placing a lien on Husband’s assets in the amount of $540,000 would reduce the amount of life insurance necessary to secure Husband’s alimony obligations but would also provide Wife with a means of enforcing the alimony in solido award. We therefore modify the trial court’s judgment to impose a lien upon a portion of Husband’s assets in the amount of $540,000 in order to secure the alimony in solido award to Wife. . . . We also modify the trial court’s judgment by reducing the amount of Husband’s court-ordered life insurance obligation from $1 million to $500,000, which amount we determine to be sufficient to secure Husband’s alimony in futuro obligation.
Thus, the trial court’s judgment was modified and the case sent back to the trial court to determine which of Husband’s assets should be encumbered by a lien.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce and Family-Law Attorney.