A case on appeal before the Tennesse Supreme Court reflects tensions and shifts in alimony practice that are playing out nationwide.
Husband and Wife are ending a long-term marriage (roughly twenty years) that began in college. They were forty-three when their divorce was filed.
Both spouses have worked throughout their marriage. Husband earns about $137,000 in the private sector and Wife earns roughly half that in a government job.
Because of the length of Husband’s and Wife’s marriage and the disparity in their incomes, a lower court ordered Husband to pay Wife permanent alimony of $1,250 per month.
On appeal by Husband, the heart of his challenge is that, despite the disparity in their incomes and the substantial length of their marriage, Wife is not dependent because she worked throughout the marriage and the divorcing spouses are too young for the court to order permanent alimony, especially in such a large amount.
(In contrast to a divorcing couple with a long-term marriage where the Wife was / is a stay-at-home mother for a significant period of time and would potentially be entering / returning to the job market over the age of fifty. Clearly, an intended beneficiary of the law providing for permanent alimony.)
The Tennessee high court’s forthcoming ruling could impact the future evolution of permanent alimony awards in Tennessee. And, possibly, beyond.