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Knoxville Divorce Lawyer > Blog > General > Is Permanent Alimony Appropriate for a Disabled Spouse After a Short-Term Marriage?

Is Permanent Alimony Appropriate for a Disabled Spouse After a Short-Term Marriage?


In divorce cases where one spouse has no way to stay out of poverty except support from his or her former spouse, judges have considerable flexibility in deciding the duration of the alimony.  When the marriage lasted less than seventeen years, the usual rule is that you cannot be required to pay alimony to your ex-spouse for longer than you were married.  The Tennessee family courts have made exceptions to this rule, but usually only if the financially disadvantaged spouse is completely unable to work because of a disability, and in most of these cases, the couple were married for nearly 17 years.  The guiding principle in division of marital property and in alimony awards, however, is what is fair to both parties.  If you are getting a divorce and will need financial support from your former spouse because of a chronic illness or disability, contact a Tennessee alimony lawyer.

When Life Gives You Lemons, What Is Fair?

Carolyn and Thomas Jarvis began their relationship in 1990, each having been divorced three times before, and they married in 1992.  Carolyn was in her early 40s, and Thomas was in his early 50s.  Before she met Thomas, Carolyn was diagnosed with degenerative nerve disease and liver disease, both of autoimmune origin, and she was unable to work.  When they married, Thomas built them a house at his expense, and Carolyn helped to maintain it.  They planned to move to Florida and live on Thomas’ boat once Thomas became eligible for retirement.

Soon after they married, though, Carolyn’s symptoms became much worse, and she had to be hospitalized many times; the health insurance provided by Thomas’ employer paid for a large portion of her treatment.  At their trial, Thomas said that he took care of Carolyn during their illness, but Carolyn said that he constantly complained about the cost of her treatment and her inability to cook and do housework because of her illness.  Their relationship deteriorated to the point where he physically assaulted her and she moved in with her daughter.  After Carolyn filed for divorce, Thomas’ girlfriend Patricia moved into the house.

The trial court required Thomas to pay Carolyn a lump sum in exchange for her share of equity in the marital home and to pay for her health insurance for three years, the longest period his employer would allow.  It also ordered him to pay her permanent alimony, since she would be destitute without it, since her only income was Social Security disability benefits.  Thomas appealed the decision, arguing that it was unfair for him to have to support his ex-wife for the rest of his life after only five years of marriage.  The appeals court modified the duration of the alimony to five years, equal to the length of the marriage.

Contact Us Today for Help

A divorce lawyer can help you if your spouse vowed to love you in sickness and in health but later changed his or her mind.  Contact Knoxville alimony lawyer Patrick L. Looper for a consultation on your case.




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