Life Insurance to Secure Alimony Examined in Williamson County, Tennessee Divorce: Hopwood v. Hopwood

FactsFather and Mother, the parents of four children, divorced after 14 years of marriage. Mother was awarded rehabilitative alimony of $2500 per month for 15 years, or $450,000. Father was also ordered to maintain a $350,000 life insurance policy to secure the payment of alimony.

The Court of Appeals reversed the 15-year rehabilitative alimony award as “excessive.” The Court remanded the issue to the trial court to reconsider the amount and duration of alimony.

tennessee alimonyOn remand, the trial court awarded Mother rehabilitative alimony of $1600 per month for eight years, or $153,600. The requirement that Father maintain a $350,000 life insurance policy remained in place.

Father appealed.

On AppealThe Court of Appeals modified the trial court’s ruling.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121(l) allows a court to require an obligor to maintain insurance to secure the payment of alimony.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-4-121(e)(2) allows a court to impose a lien on marital property awarded to a party to secure the payment of alimony.

Both of these options — insurance or liens — are discretionary.

The Court held that requiring life insurance of $350,000 to secure the payment of $153,600 was excessive:

Father . . . is securing a $153,600 rehabilitative alimony obligation with $350,000 in life insurance. This discrepancy must be corrected.

[M]other argues strongly that the full, original $350,000 life insurance policy still is needed to secure Father’s overall obligations. That, however, is a post hoc rationale and distorts the purpose of the life insurance as stated in the original judgment. We, therefore, modify the judgment of the [trial] court to reduce Father’s life insurance burden from $350,000 to $153,600.

The trial court’s judgment requiring life insurance to secure the payment of alimony was modified.

K.O.’s Comment: This case follows Stratienko v. Stratienko, where the wife was awarded $540,000 in alimony in solido plus an additional award of $5000 a month of alimony in futuro. The trial court ordered the husband to maintain a $1 million life insurance policy to secure the alimony. The Court of Appeals lowered the life insurance to $500,000 but imposed a lien of $540,000 on the husband’s property to secure the payment of alimony.

Hopwood v. Hopwood (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, May 14, 2019).

Posted by

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.

Leave a Comment