18 Jun 2012

$200,000 Alimony In Solido Upheld After 27 Yr Marriage in TN Divorce

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Tennessee law case summary on alimony in solido following 27 year marriage in Tennessee divorce and family law from the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Kenneth A. Ritchie v. Elizabeth Widmaier Pew Ritchie – Tennessee Alimony: 27 year marriage

The marriage of Kenneth A. Ritchie and Elizabeth Widmaier Pew Ritchie lasted 25 years. The husband sued the wife for divorce, which awarded the wife a divorce, distributed the marital assets and debts, and provided alimony in solido to the wife. The husband appealed the alimony in solido and the wife questioned the refusal of the lower court to award her attorney’s fees.

Married in 1983, the couple had three children, all of whom are adults and two of whom are severely disabled. The divorce case occurred in August of 2010. The husband, who has a law degree and once was a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, worked as in-house counsel for Sun Coal & Company in Tennessee. This position did not require him to maintain his license. 12 years prior to the marriage, he lost his job and received severance for one year. He worked part-time after this until he was able to earn a Social Security check at age 62. The husband, at the time of the trial, was 67 years old.

The husband said that though he knew his wife had inherited money during the marriage but he did not know how much. He also said the two withdrew money from a retirement account with a balance of “over a million dollars in it.” He took out $6,500 monthly for family living expenses.

In the case, the wife claims the husband stated their financial situation was sound and, as he handled all investments and money during the marriage, she believed him. Factors involved in this case include the wife’s need for health care since she would only have COBRA insurance after the divorce for three years at which time she would only be 60 and not eligible for Medicare for five years. In addition, the wife claims the husband spent more than $10,000 during the marriage on his girlfriend.

During the marriage, the wife received an inheritance from her mother’s estate totaling $90,000. The couple used the funds to pay for family expenses as the husband said it was better to do this than to tap into his IRA due to the tax consequences of doing so. The wife claims she contributed a total of $175,000 of her money to the marriage and wanted the husband to do the same to pay off a home equity line of credit the couple had.

The initial trial court awarded the wife $200,000 as alimony in solido and an additional $12,000 of alimony in solido to cover health insurance costs for the next three years.

The court of appeals received a request to consider whether the award of alimony in solido of $200,000 and the denial of the wife’s attorney’s fees was just. The value of property in the case is not a factor due to disagreements in the value. However, the trial court ruled that both parties had equal ability to earn a living though the husband had significantly higher separate assets. The appeals court did not refute this.

The appeals court ruled that there was no evidence that the trial court failed in making a decision about how much to award in alimony since it did take every step in considering facts to make this decision. The appeals court upheld the decision of alimony as a result.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville, Appeal from the Chancery Court for Knox County, No. 173821-3, Michael W. Moyers, Chancellor

Disclaimer: See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.

Memphis divorce lawyer, Miles Mason, Sr., JD, CPA practices family law exclusively and is founder of the Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC, which handles Tennessee family law matters including divorce, child support, alimony, prenuptial agreements, child custody, parental relocation, child support modification, and alimony modification.

Miles Mason


Memphis divorce and family lawyer, Miles Mason, Sr. is the founder of Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC. For more information about our professional staff, see our Meet the Team page.


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