When it comes to divorce and asset division, Tennessee courts use equitable standards as their guidelines. Assuming no prenuptial agreement, the courts attempt to divide the divorcing Montgomery county couple’s assets as fairly as possible, though that does not always mean equal division. Recently, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued a judgment, which it believes achieved asset division equity and fairness for both parties. The judgment overturned an appeals court ruling that ordered the ex-husband to pay his ex-wife roughly $1,250 per month, for life, in alimony payments.
The divorcing couple had been married 21 years and the wife was seeking alimony payments from her ex-husband due to their income disparity. The wife had a successful career making $72,000 per year, and the husband earned more than $137,000 per year. The couple took home comparatively equal asset settlements, so the wife believed that she had equal claim on the divorcing couple’s total income. However, the Court struck this down explaining that it is not possible to divorced people to carry on the same exact standard of living as what they had when married.
The Court went on to state that because the woman was in good health, with a successful career and a college degree, she was not in a position to receive alimony despite the wage earnings gap between her and her ex-husband.
This decision was much awaited because it sets a precedent for future divorce settlement cases. Supreme Court decisions carry more weight than those at the trial and appellate levels. However, this is only one decision and it may not apply to cases with different facts and circumstances. On the other hand, like any other precedential court decisions, divorcing couples should understand how this decision might impact their property division and alimony issues.
Source: ABA Journal, “Tennessee Supreme Court Nixes Lifetime Alimony for Ex-Spouse Earning $72k a Year,” Debra Cassens, Sept. 20, 2015