Tennessee Alimony Must Be Fixed Amount, Not Percentage
Tennessee alimony divorce case summary after 35 years married.
The husband and wife in this Tennessee case were married for 33 years and had four adult children at the time of their 2014 divorce. At the time of the divorce, the husband was 65 and earned a monthly salary of $3700 as a salesman, along with commissions. Between 2010 and 2013, his total earnings averaged about $159,000 per year.
The wife was 62 years old and had a graduate degree in anesthesiology. She had worked as a nurse anesthetist until about 2002. Until about 1990, she had earned a greater income than the husband. Since 1992, she began to experience various health problems. For example, she underwent surgery after being diagnosed with cervical scoliosis.
The wife took the position that she left work in 2002 because of these health problems. The husband, on the other hand, argued that the wife was asked to leave her job until she “got her narcotics cleared up” and that she abused medications and alcohol.
After hearing the evidence, the trial court granted the divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. It divided the property, and then considered the issue of alimony. The lower court found the wife to be the disadvantaged spouse, and held that the husband had an ability to pay. The court awarded $1,000 per month as transitional alimony, plus half of the husband’s quarterly bonuses. It also awarded the wife $300,000 alimony in solido to compensate for differences in value of the property awarded.
Both the husband and wife appealed. The husband argued that the support had been miscalculated. The wife argued that she should have been also awarded alimony in futuro. After addressing some preliminary issues, the Tennessee Court of Appeals turned to the merits of their arguments. The husband’s primary argument that the award of a percentage of the bonus was improper, and that the award should have been for a specific dollar amount. The appeals court agreed, and noted that the statute called for “some definite amount or amounts.” It cited a 1987 case in which a court had interpreted this provision to prohibit awards of percentages. For this reason, the appeals court vacated the award of alimony and remanded the case. The court also agreed with the husband that the award had been properly characterized, and that there was no need to designate the award as being alimony in futuro, as requested by the wife.
After addressing a number of other issues, the court remanded the case for recomputation of the alimony award.
No. E2016-00156-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 24, 2016).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
To learn more, see Alimony Law in Tennessee.