Attorney’s Fees as Alimony in Solido Challenged in Chattanooga, Tennessee Divorce: Buntin v. Buntin

March 23, 2023 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Father and Mother, the parents of two children, divorced after 20 years of marriage.

The marital estate was divided equally, and Mother was awarded transitional alimony of $6000 per month for up to seven years.

Mother was also awarded $18,000 for her attorney’s fees.

Father appealed, arguing that Mother could easily pay her attorney’s fees without depleting her resources after the nearly equal division of property and transitional alimony award.

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

An award of attorney’s fees in a divorce constitutes alimony in solido. A spouse with adequate property and income is not entitled to an award of alimony to pay attorney’s fees and expenses. Such awards are appropriate only when the spouse seeking them lacks enough money to pay their legal costs or the spouse would have to deplete their resources to pay them. Thus, where the spouse seeking such an award has shown they are financially unable to get counsel and where the other spouse has the ability to pay, Tennessee courts may properly grant an award of attorney’s fees as alimony.

The Court found no abuse of discretion:

We cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding to Mother attorney’s fees in the amount of $18,000. Although Mother did receive significant assets in the divorce, many of those assets were not liquid and were thus unavailable to be utilized to pay Mother’s fees and living expenses.

Mother should not be compelled to spend her limited liquid assets to pay attorney’s fees given her significant economic disadvantage and her lack of ability to replace those assets. We therefore determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees to Mother.

The Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment and awarded Mother her attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Source: Buntin v. Buntin (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Section, February 27, 2023).

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Attorney’s Fees as Alimony in Solido Challenged in Chattanooga, Tennessee Divorce: Buntin v. Buntin was last modified: March 16th, 2023 by K.O. Herston

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