Amount of Transitional Alimony Reversed in Franklin, Tennessee Divorce: Lindsley v. Lindsley

December 16, 2020 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Father and Mother, the parents of three children, divorced after seven years of marriage.

Mother was allowed to relocate to Mississippi with the children, and Father was awarded 104 days of parenting time.

Mother expressed her desire to enroll the children in a private school in Mississippi. Mother testified that the school offered her financial aid and her parents agreed to pay for additional private-school expenses. Mother said Father would not have to bear the cost of the children’s private school.

Mother sought an award of transitional alimony for five years. Mother projected her monthly deficit of expenses against income to be $2364, which projection did not include the costs of the children’s private school or Mother’s receipt of child support.

After “taking into account the cost of private school tuition,” the trial court found that an increase in Mother’s projected income deficit was reasonably foreseeable. The trial court awarded Mother transitional alimony of $2500 per month for five years.

Father appealed.

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

When assessing alimony, Tennessee courts must consider the factors found at Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121(i), chief among which are the economically disadvantaged spouse’s need and the obligor’s ability to pay.

Noting its agreement that five years of transitional alimony is appropriate, the Court quarreled with the trial court’s assessment of Mother’s need:

Here, the trial court essentially imputed certain private school expenses to Mother in the absence of any proof that she would incur any. Mother, in fact, testified that she qualified for private school financial aid and stated that her parents had advised her that they would pick up any expenses after that. Mother’s testimony further indicated that she was not requesting any contribution from Father with respect to the cost of private school. The trial court’s decision to increase the calculation of Mother’s alleged needs to account for private school tuition was therefore error.

We also agree with Father that the trial court’s determination of Mother’s needs failed to properly account for her receipt of child support. The law is clear that such support should be considered incident to a determination of need for alimony.

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Mother was awarded child support of $2071 per month. When that amount is considered in connection with Mother’s income and expense statement, as is necessary for a full picture of Mother’s financial needs, it is clear that Mother’s needs are significantly lower than calculated by the trial court. . . . The disadvantaged spouse’s need is . . . the threshold consideration when a court makes a decision pertaining to alimony. This factor must be properly considered by the trial court in the exercise of its discretion, without reference to private-school expenses but with proper reference to Mother’s receipt of child support.

The Court vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded the amount of alimony for reconsideration, given Mother’s receipt of child support and lack of private-school expenses. The award of transitional alimony and its duration were affirmed.

Lindsley v. Lindsley (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, November 30, 2020).

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Amount of Transitional Alimony Reversed in Franklin, Tennessee Divorce: Lindsley v. Lindsley was last modified: December 14th, 2020 by K.O. Herston

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