Long-Term Alimony Affirmed in Not-A-Long-Term Marriage in Jackson, Tennessee Divorce: Patel v. Patel

December 9, 2019 K.O. Herston 1 Comments

Facts: When the parties married, Wife was an American citizen. After moving to the United States following the wedding, Husband eventually became an American citizen.

At the time of the marriage, Husband was a full-time medical student earning no income. Wife earned $40,000 per year working for an accountant.

Husband’s education and career caused of the parties to relocate throughout the marriage.

After 13 years of marriage, Husband filed for divorce.

By the time of the divorce, Husband, 36, worked as a medical doctor earning $850,000 per year. Wife, 37, was not employed.

tennessee alimonyWife testified she could not find employment like that which she had at the time of the marriage because of the parties’ frequent moves. She also testified that the parties eventually agreed she did not need employment because of Husband’s higher earnings.

After the separation, Wife enrolled in college to obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting and hopes to eventually gain a master’s degree that could create $80,000-$90,000 in income. Wife was a full-time student at the time of trial, and her only income consisted of approximately $2000 per year in dividends.

The trial court found that Wife made it possible for Husband to study and work without having significant household duties, thus contributing in a tangible and intangible way to Husband’s education, training, and increased earning capacity.

After equitably dividing the marital estate, Wife was awarded alimony in futuro of $7500 per month. The trial court specifically found that neither transitional nor rehabilitative alimony would allow Wife to maintain a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed by Husband. The trial court also found this 13-year marriage was not one of short duration.

Husband appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Husband argued Wife was not entitled to any alimony.

Tennessee recognizes four types of spousal support: alimony in futuro, alimony in solido, rehabilitative alimony, and transitional alimony.

Alimony in futuro, which is at issue here, and is a long-term form of support that is appropriate when the economically disadvantaged spouse cannot achieve self-sufficiency and economic rehabilitation is not feasible.

After examining the trial court’s findings as to the relevant statutory factors, the Court found they were supported by the evidence:

The undisputed evidence shows that while Husband was taking his boards, Wife and her family provided Husband’s sole financial support. Later, Wife was required to move cities frequently to further Husband’s ambitions and career. On these occasions, Wife was required to find the apartments and make the bulk of necessary living arrangements. Moreover, the moves prevented Wife from gaining any career advancement or obtaining further education. Husband’s food needs, which were largely met by Wife during the marriage, were so particular that Husband now requires specific catering for each and every meal following the divorce. Finally, Husband admitted, although begrudgingly, that his marriage to Wife did allow him to gain citizenship more quickly, which furthered his medical career. . . . [T]he evidence supports the trial court’s finding that Wife made tangible and intangible contributions to [] Husband’s increased earning capacity.

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Here, the trial court properly considered all the relevant factors under the statute. Importantly, these factors show both that Wife had a current need for alimony at the time of the divorce and that Husband had the ability to pay.

After conceding that “this marriage was not long-term,” the Court affirmed the trial court’s award of alimony in futuro of $7500 per month.

K.O.’s Comment: (1) There are cases in Tennessee where marriages of this length or even shorter were found to be marriages of long duration. See, e.g., Velez v. Velez.

There are also cases where longer marriages were found to be neither short nor long. See, e.g., Garman v. Garman.

(2) Husband’s maximalist position that Wife was entitled to no alimony whatsoever seemed doomed to fail. An argument for rehabilitative alimony might have been taken more seriously, particularly considering Wife’s relatively young age (37).

Patel v. Patel (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section, November 15, 2019).

Long-Term Alimony Affirmed in Not-A-Long-Term Marriage in Jackson, Tennessee Divorce: Patel v. Patel was last modified: December 9th, 2019 by K.O. Herston

1 people reacted on this

  1. Alimony seems very nebulous to me. Are there any states that have good statutes toward making alimony determination more consistent? In other words, are there any states that have simplified alimony more along the lines of calculating child support?

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