In a recent decision, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee reviewed a divorce action concerning the division of property and transitional alimony in the matter of Moon v. Moon (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 21, 2016). In Moon, the parties had been married for three years when the husband filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. The wife counter-claimed for divorce, asserting that the husband was liable for inappropriate marital conduct. The case was tried, and the court granted the wife a divorce on the grounds of inappropriate marital conduct. The husband appealed the decision of the trial court, arguing that it erred by dividing the marital estate in an inequitable manner and awarding the wife transitional alimony.
In Tennessee, “marital property” is all real and personal property acquired by either or both spouses during the course of the marriage. Separate property includes all real and personal property owned by a spouse before marriage. However, the property that began as separate property when the parties were married can be converted into marital property if it is inextricably mingled with marital property. Once a trial court classifies property as marital or separate, the court divides the property between the parties in an equitable—not necessarily equal—manner. In so doing, the court considers a number of statutory factors.
In Moon, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision regarding the division of marital assets. The court noted that although both parties have sources of income, the husband, who was employed as an engineer, clearly has more earning capacity than the wife, who had just earned her realtors license. The court also reasoned that the husband was more financially stable than the wife and had more substantial separate assets, which included two real estate properties. As a result, the appeals court found that the trial court properly considered the statutory factors in distributing the property.
The appeals court also affirmed the award of transitional alimony to the wife. In Tennessee, transitional alimony is appropriate when a court determines that the economically disadvantaged spouse does not require rehabilitation, but instead that he or she needs some financial assistance to adjust to the economic consequences of a divorce. The court must consider many statutory factors, including the spouse’s ability to pay and the receiving spouse’s need for the support. In Moon, the court explained that the parties agreed during their marriage that the wife would leave her previous place of employment and change careers, completing the necessary education and training during their marriage. The court found that the wife’s earning capacity would likely increase, but in this early stage, transitional alimony for a period of two years was appropriate, given the financial situation of the husband. Accordingly, the decision was affirmed.
If you are involved in a divorce, it may be beneficial to retain qualified and experienced legal representation to protect your interests during the proceedings. At the Nashville firm of Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, our family law attorneys provide comprehensive advice to individuals in a variety of legal matters, including divorce and property distribution, spousal support, child custody, and more. To discuss your situation with one of our compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys, call (615) 800-7096 or contact us online.