19 Jun 2012

Tennessee law case summary on alimony in futuro and business valuation in Tennessee divorce and family law from the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The parties divorced after 25 years, but the divorce was filed after 21 years.

Wendy Ann Burton v. Robert Mark Mooneyham – Tennessee Divorce, Alimony, and Business Valuation

The husband, Robert Mark Mooneyham requested an appeal of the decision of a lower court on the valuation of marital assets and the allocation of debt on the marital residence. He also claimed the trial court erred in both the length and the amount of alimony.

In 1985, Wendy Ann Burton and Robert Mark Mooneyham married. They had one emancipated child. Burton filed for divorce in 2006 from their 21-year marriage on the claim of inappropriate marital conduct. Mooneyham counterclaimed for the same charge.

The original case happened on November 3, 2010. At the time, Kurt Myers presented expert testimony regarding the value of the husband’s business. Mr. Bright, also an expert witness, testified for the wife.  In a memorandum filed on November 30, 2010, the court identified the following assets.

  • The real property located on Bay Pointe Drive in Gallatin, Tennessee, with a home equity line of credit in the amount of $150,000 had a tax-assessed value of $435,000, pre-recession;
  • A business, named Access Car Rental, with a tax lien of $350,000 had a value of $550,000;
  • Life insurance policies;
  • Household goods valued at $25,000 including furnishings to the home;
  • Wife’s savings account valued at $20,000;
  • Husband’s checking account.

In the initial ruling, the court awarded the Wife the residence, household goods in her possession and both the savings accounts. It awarded the Husband the business, household goods in his possession, his checking account, and his life insurance policy. The court required the Husband to pay the home equity line of credit on the home and the IRS debt owed.

In addition, the initial court ruled the wife needed financial aid and required the husband to pay alimony in the case. The original court ruled the wife would receive alimony in futuro at the value of $4,000 per month, with an additional $29,904.95 for attorney fees.

On March 3, 2011, after a request for clarification and an objection from both parties the court heard these objections and then had found it erred about the indebtedness of the marital residence. In that ruling, it noted the primary marital residence’s equity was $165,453.45, based on the debt of the home equity loan and current mortgage. In making this change, the court also adjusted the alimony payment to $5,847 per month until death or remarriage or until the debt received a reduction by $150,000 at which time, the alimony payment dropped to $4,000.

The appeals court had a request to further review the alimony paid to the wife. The husband claimed the wife’s expenses contribute to a lifestyle that is not possible to maintain after the divorce for either party and that “extreme expenses” are not necessary, such “as $250 a month for beauty and barber shop expenses, $406 a month for veterinary expenses, $400 a month for recreational expenses, $125 a month for facial and makeup expenses, $200 a month for gifts, $363 a month for pool expenses, and $400 for a personal trainer.”  However, the wife provided specific reasons for these expenses and that her income was $1,280.57 whereas her monthly debts amounted to $5,000. The wife did not work full time during the marriage. At no time did the husband claim he could not pay the awarded alimony.

In the ruling, the appeals court changed the value of the husband’s business.  Businesses should be valued as close to the date of divorce as possible and the trial court had used a debt amount for valuation that had been reduced prior to the trial date.  But, since the trial court did not use this as a factor in determining the value of alimony, the appeals court did not adjust alimony amounts as a result.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville, Appeal from the Chancery Court for Sumner County, No. 2006D98, by Tom E. Gray, 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, alimony modification, and divorces including business valuation and forensic accounting issues.

Miles Mason

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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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