The Seifert Case: When Prenuptial Agreements Are Not the Only Factor in Determining Alimony
Even though prenuptial agreements sometimes involve one spouse waiving the right to alimony, that is not their main purpose. At their core, prenuptial agreements identify assets that do not become marital property. When a couple divorces after a long marriage, one spouse might still be required to pay alimony, even if there is a prenuptial agreement. To find out more about what kind of alimony arrangement you can expect if you have a prenup, contact a prenuptial agreement attorney.
Details of the Seifert Case
Phillip and Maria Seifert married in 1997, when he was an emergency room physician in his early thirties and she was a registered nurse in her early forties. They had two children together, born in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Several days before their wedding, they signed a prenuptial agreement, in which they agreed that Phillip’s income would continue to be his separate property, as would any assets he acquired with money he earned during the marriage. The only assets that would be marital property would be those titled in the name of both spouses. Maria left her job to be a stay-at-home parent in 2011; she did not go back to work for the rest of the marriage. Phillip continued to work as an emergency room physician; his annual income ranged from about $300,000 to more than $500,000.
Phillip filed for divorce in 2013. The court ruled that the parties’ prenuptial agreement was valid. It ordered Phillip to pay Maria a lump sum of $500,000, plus a permanent alimony of $8,000 per month. Both Phillip and Maria appealed the trial court’s ruling; Phillip wanted to pay less alimony, but Maria wanted him to pay more. The appeal court upheld the trial court’s ruling. It reasoned that, since Maria was in her sixties and had been out of work for most of the couple’s long marriage, her earning potential was less than a tenth of Phillip’s.
The deciding factors in determining how much alimony Maria should get were the length of the marriage and her age and earning potential. Awards of permanent alimony are relatively rare because the court only awards them in cases like these, when the recipient spouse is close to retirement age and has been financially dependent on the paying spouse for many years. Tennessee courts interpret equitable distribution to mean that each spouse’s financial situation should remain as stable as possible after the divorce. Even though the court honored the prenuptial agreement, which said that the money from Phillip’s job belonged to Phillip, and therefore, Maria could not automatically claim half of it, it still ordered Phillip to pay Maria the amount that, it reasoned, she needed. To many Americans, $8,000 per month sounds like an exorbitant sum, but the spirit of the law is that, when a working spouse financially supports a non-working spouse, it is by mutual consent, and both parties are entitled to keep their same standard of living after the divorce.
Contact Patrick L. Looper About Prenuptial Agreements
A prenuptial agreement is not a guaranteed way to avoid all money disputes in a divorce. You may still need the help of a lawyer. Contact Knoxville prenuptial agreement attorney Patrick L. Looper for a consultation.