Ted Kern, Family Law & Mediation - A Member of Eshbaugh, Waters, Strange-Boston & Kern

Archive for March 2012

     A recent Tennessee Court of Appeals case shows how a person’s actions after divorce can affect her award of permanent alimony.

     When Wife divorced, she was forty six years old and employed as an elementary school teacher, earning about $31,000.00 per year.  The trial court awarded her permanent alimony of $750.00 per month.  The court stated that it was unlikely she could be economically rehabilitated, because her current employment offered no opportunity for promotion, and if she switched careers she would start over at an introductory level.

      Six years later, Wife had stayed in the education field, but was now a school principal earning $64,000.00 per year.  Husband filed a petition to reduce his alimony obligation, saying that Wife’s switch from teaching to school administration was an unanticipated change of circumstances and that Wife no longer needed $750.00 per month in alimony payments.  The trial court agreed, determined that Wife still had some financial need, and reduced Husband’s alimony payment to $500.00 per month.  The Court of Appeals took a different view.  While agreeing that Wife’s employment change was a substantial change of circumstances, the Appeals Court also determined that Wife had effectively rehabilitated herself by changing career tracks and more than doubling her income.  Because of this, the Appeals Court determined that Wife no longer needed any alimony and reduced Husband’s obligation to $0.00.

     Permanent alimony continues until a former spouse remarries or dies.  The amount can be adjusted up or down depending on the future economic situation of the former spouses.  Rehabilitative alimony is a non-modifiable payment for a specified period of time, intended to assist a former spouse with improving her earning capacity.  In this case, the Court of Appeals reclassified the original alimony award from permanent to rehabilitative, and finding that Wife had successfully rehabilitated herself, ended her alimony all together.

     You can read the full decision here:  https://www.tba.org/sites/default/files/williamss_030212.pdf

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