Facts: The parties divorced after 45 years of marriage. At the time of trial, Husband was 72 years old, and Wife was 67.
Wife worked little outside the home during the marriage, instead fulfilling her role in the marriage as a homemaker and stay-at-home parent.
The proof showed that Husband would have a net income of $6000 per month, while Wife’s net income would be $1000 per month. After considering their respective expenses, Husband would have a monthly surplus of $2400, while Wife would have a monthly deficit of $1600.
After dividing the marital property nearly equally, the trial court denied Wife’s request for alimony of any type.
On Appeal: The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.
Tennessee law values a spouse’s contributions as a homemaker and stay-at-home parent equally to that of the other spouse’s financial contributions. Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121 says:
(c)(1) Spouses have traditionally strengthened the family unit through private arrangements whereby one spouse focuses on nurturing the personal side of the marriage, including the care and nurturing of the children, while the other spouse focuses primarily on building the economic strength of the family unit. This arrangement often results in economic detriment to the spouse who subordinated such spouse’s own personal career for the benefit of the marriage. . . .
(c)(2) The General assembly finds that the contributions to the marriage as homemaker or parent are of equal dignity and importance as economic contributions to the marriage. Further, where one spouse suffers economic detriment for the benefit of the marriage, the General assembly finds that the economically disadvantaged spouse’s standard of living after the divorce should be reasonably comparable to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage or to the postdivorce standard of living expected to be available to the other spouse, considering the relevant statutory factors [in subsection (i)] and the equities between the parties.
The Court concluded that an award of alimony to Wife is necessary because of her relative economic disadvantage.
Because “Husband presented no evidence that Wife had the capacity for self-sufficiency with only a need for short-term financial assistance via transitional alimony,” transitional alimony was ruled out.
Rehabilitative alimony was ruled out because “[t]here was likewise no proof that Wife could be economically rehabilitated in this case.”
Finding alimony in futuro appropriate, the Court explained:
Wife currently has little income and no ability to replace assets. She is clearly economically disadvantaged compared to Husband because Husband’s net monthly income is approximately six times greater than Wife’s. The duration of the marriage was lengthy with the parties enjoying a comfortable lifestyle and both parties contributing to the marital estate.
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[W]e believe that an award of alimony in futuro in the amount of $1600 per month is appropriate. This amount should appropriately address Wife’s monthly shortfall concerning her income and expenses, and Husband clearly has the ability to pay such an award based upon his income.
Thus, the trial court’s judgment was reversed and modified to award Wife alimony in futuro of $1600 per month.