Facts: Husband and Wife divorced after 30 years of marriage.
During much of the marriage, Wife was a homemaker and stay-at-home parent. At the time of divorce, Husband earned $113,000 per year while Wife earned $32,000 per year.
After equally dividing the marital property, the trial court awarded Wife transitional alimony of $500 per month for 12 years.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals modified the trial court’s judgment.
Husband argued that Wife failed to demonstrate a need for alimony in the amount and for the duration ordered by the trial court
Transitional alimony is designed to aid a spouse who possesses the capacity for self-sufficiency but needs temporary financial assistance to adjust to the economic reality of one income. Thus, it is characterized as a form of short-term support. Regarding the duration of transitional alimony, Tennessee’s appellate courts have ruled that transitional alimony should not be awarded for more than eight years.
Alimony in futuro is intended to provide support on a long-term basis until the death or remarriage of the receiving spouse. This long-term support is awarded when the receiving spouse’s earning capacity is not capable of rehabilitation.
The Court found an error in the trial court’s judgment, but it wasn’t quite what Husband was hoping for:
Wife’s monthly income was roughly a third of Husband’s monthly income. And, as she is now in her fifties, it is unlikely that she could obtain additional training to allow her to earn a higher salary before she reached retirement. . . .
The evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that Wife had a need for alimony. . . .
As for the duration of the alimony, the court’s award was designed such that Wife would receive payments until she reached the age at which she could claim Social Security retirement benefits. Wife originally requested 15 years of alimony, but the trial court focused on the early retirement benefit age instead.
* * * * *
[D]ue to the disparity in income and relative earning capacity between the spouses, we conclude that the court’s award of transitional alimony should be modified to an award of alimony in futuro. Under the circumstances of this case, an award of alimony for a period of 144 months, or 12 years, constitutes long-term support.
Thus, the trial court’s judgment was modified to change the type and duration from transitional for 12 years to alimony in futuro for an indefinite period of time.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce and Family-Law Attorney.