07 Jul 2012

TN Wife of 17 Years Gets Alimony $200 per Month for 36 Mos. in Divorce

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Alimony Tennessee law case summary following 17 years of marriage.  Tennessee divorce and family law from the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Donna L. Collins v Randy M. Collins – Tennessee Alimony Case – 17 years married.

In the divorce of Donna Collins and Randy Collins, the husband appealed the lower court’s award of $4,850 for attorney’s fees and the determination of the wife maintain the marital home until the parties’ children graduate high school. The parties were married for 17 years. The wife filed for divorce in July of 2007. At the time of the trial, the wife was 43 years old and the husband was 50.

The husband previously earned $50,000 per year but was earning $400 per week at the time of the trial. The wife was employed at Sumner County Extension 4-H program earning $8.00 an hour. The wife had a high school degree and she was attending Volunteer State Community College. The wife worked during the marriage in the child’s after-school program. The parties had two minor children, aged 14 and 16, at the time of the trial. The court determined the wife should be the primary residential parent.

During the trial, the wife testified that it would cost $1,000 per month to rent a suitable home for the children and she believed moving the sons out of their current school would hurt their grades. She sought to remain in the family home, which was also the most valuable asset. The husband’s parents provided five acres of land for the parties to build a home, of which both parties contributed. The house appraised at $195,000 but had a home equity line of credit at $53,600 at the time of the trial. The husband testified he wanted to buy the home and offered to pay the wife $62,000 for the house.

The court awarded the wife $529 per month in child support and rehabilitative alimony for $200 per month for 36 months. It ordered the husband to pay the wife’s attorney’s fees as alimony in solido.

The court ruled that the mother could stay in the home with the children until the youngest graduated from high school or she remarried. It asserted it was in the best interest of the children to follow this plan.

The husband’s appeal of the wife’s ability to remain in the marital home did not dispute that the trial court failed to equitably divide the marital property. The husband believed it would be possible for the wife to find a suitable home. He claimed the wife would receive $80,000 at the sale of the marital home that with the monthly income would enable her to find alternative housing. The appeals court ruled that the husband’s complaint ties up his equity for four years is not an error under law of the lower court. It affirmed this decision of the lower court.

In terms of the attorney fee’s awarded to the wife as alimony in solido, the appeals court ruled that it is in the trial court’s discretion to do so and, without any abuse of that discretion it would not reverse this decision. Accordingly, the husband does not dispute the award but rather the amount of it. The attorney submitted an affidavit that the wife incurred $5,631.25 in attorney’s fees during the divorce and the trial court ordered payment of $4,850 in fees. The wife claimed during testimony she withdrew $3,000 from a home equity line of credit in anticipation of the divorce to pay attorney fees, thus the husband believes he would be paying more than owed to the attorneys. The wife argued that she is solely responsible for repaying the debt and, therefore, would have paid the $3,000 back by the time the marital home is sold. The appeals court did not rule in favor of the husband and instead affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

No. M2008-00930-COA-R3-CV, May 5, 2009.

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, and alimony modification. The firm represents clients in Germantown, Collierville, and the surrounding west Tennessee area.

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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