The Court Has the Final Say About Whether Your Alimony Agreement Is Fair
Some couples spend years in court arguing about alimony, while others decide about it long before they divorce, or even before they marry. If you and your spouse agreed in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement about how much one of you will pay the other in alimony in the event of your divorce, then the court will usually treat that agreement as an enforceable contract and use it as a guide in determining equitable distribution and alimony. Tennessee case law has stated many times that the state is the third party in any divorce case; it does not allow property division and alimony schemes that put one spouse at such a disadvantage that he or she is at risk of becoming financially dependent on the state. If you and your spouse were legally separated before you divorced and you concluded a legal separation, the court may follow it completely, partially, or not at all when deciding the terms of your property division and alimony. If you and your spouse are legally separated and are considered moving forward with your divorce, contact a Tennessee alimony lawyer.
When the Separation Agreement Does Not Mention Divorce
Robert and Sheila Pless married in 1987; Robert was employed full-time throughout the marriage, while Sheila home-schooled the couple’s three children and thus was out of the workforce for many years. In early 2009, they entered a legal separation agreement; it appears that both parties anticipated a reconciliation. Sheila remained in the marital home with the children, while Robert paid child support in addition to paying Sheila $2,000 in alimony. The agreement specified that Robert would pay 83 percent toward the children’s healthcare costs, and Sheila would pay 17 percent. While Sheila did not have paid employment, she had substantial resources in the form of a $400,000 wrongful death settlement she had received after the death of one of her relatives. That money was her separate property, in accordance with Tennessee law.
The parties maintained their arrangement for nine years, during which time all three of their children reached adulthood. Robert continued to pay child support even after the children were grown up, as they continued to reside with Sheila off and on, and Sheila did not reenter the workforce. Meanwhile, Robert moved from Nashville first to Memphis and then to Arkansas, living in rented rooms and small apartments while sending most of his earnings to Sheila to help pay for the children’s college expenses. The plushest accommodation he ever had was when he rented a two-bedroom apartment so that the parties’ son could live with him after graduating from college.
The parties filed for divorce in 2016, and Sheila argued that the alimony order should follow the 2009 separation agreement. Instead, the court ruled that Sheila did not need alimony, as she had employable skills and sufficient resources to earn investment income. It also reasoned that the separation agreement did not make any provisions about what would happen if the parties divorced.
Contact an Attorney Today for Help
You still need a Knoxville alimony lawyer even if you and your spouse were separated for years before you divorced. Contact Patrick L. Looper for help today.