Tennessee Appeals Court Affirms Order Awarding Alimony to Wife After Divorce

In some divorce proceedings, alimony can become a major issue, particularly when one spouse has produced all or most of the income for a significant portion of the marriage.  The Court of Appeals of Tennessee recently addressed this matter in Mabie v. Mabie (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 9, 2017), when it reviewed an order by the trial court awarding rehabilitative alimony and alimony in futuro to the wife after the divorce.  Throughout the parties’ 14-year marriage, the husband was a medical doctor and partner in a successful practice that generated a significant income, while the wife’s primary role was as a stay-at-home mother.

Tennessee recognizes four types of spousal support:  (1) alimony in futuro, (2) alimony in solido, (3) rehabilitative alimony, and (4) transitional alimony.  With regard to rehabilitative alimony, the purpose is to assist an economically disadvantaged spouse in eventually achieving an earning capacity that allows him or her a standard of living that is reasonably comparable to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.  Alimony in futuro is intended to provide support on a long-term basis until the death or remarriage of the recipient.  It may be awarded in addition to an award of rehabilitative alimony, in cases in which the spouse may be only partially rehabilitated, or in lieu of rehabilitative alimony, when rehabilitation is not feasible.

In Mabie, the trial court awarded the wife $6,000 per month in rehabilitative alimony for three years and $5,000 per month in alimony in futuro.  The award of alimony in futuro was ordered to be paid concurrently with the rehabilitative alimony and would terminate upon either party’s death, the wife’s remarriage, or the wife’s cohabitation with a third party.

On appeal, the court considered the relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each party.  The appeals court noted that the wife has a bachelor’s degree and her real estate license, but, by agreement of the parties, she had not had gainful employment in nearly a decade.  Historically, the most she earned was approximately $40,000 to $45,000 as a realtor.  Comparatively, the husband’s extrapolated income over the previous three years averaged $865,000.  Given the husband’s high income, there was no argument that he did not have the ability to pay the alimony.

With regard to rehabilitative alimony, the appeals court affirmed the award of $6,000 per month for three years, finding it to be a reasonable amount and period of time to allow the wife to prepare herself to re-enter the workforce, possibly by attending law school.  With respect to alimony in futuro, the appeals court concluded that the wife was economically disadvantaged and was in need of support, and the husband had the ability to pay. The court also agreed that the wife could only be partially rehabilitated, and she could not be fully restored to the parties’ standard of living during the marriage.  Accordingly, the appeals court held that alimony in futuro was also appropriate.

If your marriage is ending, a qualified divorce lawyer can guide you through the proceedings and help protect your legal rights.  At MHPS, our Nashville family law attorneys can provide compassionate advice regarding spousal support, child custody arrangements, property division, and more.  To discuss your situation with one of our attorneys, contact us by phone at (615) 800-7096 or online and set up your consultation

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