Regret Does Not Justify Modification of Alimony in Jacksboro, Tennessee: Jones v. Jones

FactsWhen Husband and Wife divorced, they agreed that Husband would pay Wife $3577 a month as a combined award of both alimony and child support. After the child-support obligation was established at $765 per month, the balance of the $3577 award was deemed alimony.

Three years later, Husband petitioned to modify his alimony obligation.

Tennessee modify alimony

The trial court found that Husband’s income had increased slightly since the divorce. Husband had remarried but declined to testify about his household income. His petition was denied.

Husband appealed.

On AppealThe Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

An award of alimony remains in the court’s control and can be modified upon showing a substantial and material change of circumstances. The party seeking modification bears the burden of proof.

The change in circumstances must have occurred since the entry of the order for alimony, and the change in circumstances must not have been foreseeable at the time of that order.

The decision to modify alimony is factually driven and requires carefully balancing the factors in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-101(d).

The Court agreed there was no basis for modifying the alimony award:

As the trial court found, the only significant change which has occurred since the divorce is that Husband has since remarried. However, this Court has explained that the voluntary assumption of new obligations, including a subsequent marriage or children, does not constitute a change in circumstances.

Aside from his remarriage, the only change that Husband had experienced since the time of the divorce was a slight increase in his annual salary. Clearly, such a positive change would not warrant a decrease in his alimony obligation. . . .

Although the parties’ circumstances remain largely the same as they were at the time of the divorce, any small changes that have occurred were foreseeable at the time the parties entered into the divorce decree. The real crux of Husband’s position appears to be his dissatisfaction with the alimony obligation to which he agreed. Such dissatisfaction, however, does not equate to a material change in circumstance.

The Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of Husband’s petition to modify.

Jones v. Jones (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Section, November 4, 2019).

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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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