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Knoxville Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Property Division > Not Everything Paid in Installments Is Alimony

Not Everything Paid in Installments Is Alimony


For many people, one of the things that separates a painless divorce from a messy one is making a clean break.  In the best of circumstances, a judge simply signs off on the couple’s agreement about which spouse gets to keep which of the couple’s assets, and the spouses go their separate ways.  In the worst of circumstances, they fundamentally disagree about what is fair (which is the guiding principle behind equitable distribution), and they keep arguing about details even after they get divorced.  The more complex your entanglement with your spouse, the more likely you are to have to pay alimony or child support, which means that the court will be involved in your finances for years to come.  Alimony and child support are subject to modification based on changes in the financial circumstances of each spouse, whereas the division of property decision is meant to be final.  Occasionally, though, a couple will disagree over whether one spouse gave the other a certain amount of money as spousal support or as part of the division of marital assets.  If you and your ex-spouse have reached an impasse about alimony or division of property, contact a Tennessee property division lawyer.

Details of the Cornwell Case

Casandra and Troy Cornwell divorced in 2005, while their children were minors.  Troy had been in the military since before he married Casandra, and their marital dissolution agreement (MDA) specified that he was to pay Casandra $1,071 per month until their youngest child turned 18.  The MDA also stated that Casandra would keep the marital home and be responsible for its mortgage payments.  Casandra remarried in 2006, and Troy, following his lawyer’s advice, stopped making payments to Casandra from the military retirement account, although he continued to pay child support.

Casandra filed a motion to hold Troy in civil contempt for failing to pay her the monthly installments since her remarriage.  Troy argued that alimony automatically terminates when the recipient spouse remarries and that, since the payments from his military retirement account were made in installments, they were alimony.  The judge ruled in Casandra’s favor, since the MDA listed the payments from Troy’s military retirement account in the division of property section.  Furthermore, the MDA did not mention alimony at all.  The distinction is important because alimony is subject to modification when one spouse’s financial situation changes.  It automatically terminates when the recipient spouse remarries and can be reduced or terminated if the recipient spouse is receiving financial support from a new romantic partner.  Division of property, however, is not subject to change based on events in either spouse’s life, even if it is paid out in installments.  The MDA had specified that Troy must make payments to Casandra until their youngest child turned 18, and the court held him to that agreement.

Let Us Help You Today

Even if you get remarried, your ex-spouse still has to abide by the terms of your MDA.  Contact Knoxville property division lawyer Patrick L. Looper for a consultation.



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