Alimony: The Million Dollar Divorce Question

Alimony has been discussed at length in jurisprudence of the courts ever since the time it was recognized as a legitimate cause of action, far before any living attorney practiced law. Alimony often has been considered to be a punitive measure taken against a cheating partner. While fault is a factor in alimony (see Armstrong v. Armstrong – the most cited case that outlines the basic factors for the court’s consideration of alimony), fault is only one factor that the court will consider. It is important to note that even in an irreconcilable differences divorce that a chancellor may award alimony if there were issues reserved for determination by the court and not agreed to by the parties.

The findings of fault have taken on elevated importance in recent alimony cases heard in the chancery courts of Mississippi. Not long ago the court of appeals considered a case where they reduced the monthly alimony payments of a husband from $4,000 dollars to $2,500 dollars because of the wife’s alcohol abuse. Although the husband’s role in the deterioration of the marriage was significant and something that was to an extent stipulated to by both parties, the court determined that a substantial reduction of the wife’s (a homemaker) need for alimony was in order. Ultimately, the court determined that the factor of fault aligning with her alcohol abuse warranted a considerable reduction in the husband’s monthly alimony obligation. Also, it is important that any party to a divorce recognize that the presence of children is a major factor to be considered by the courts in the awarding of alimony. In another recent case, although the parties had separate estates that were roughly equal, the court made a determination that the presence of autistic children warranted an award of alimony due to the discrepancy in income. Essentially, the husband made an argument that the court erred in allowing such a sizable alimony award because it consisted of “post-emancipation child support.” However, the court rejected this argument and rightfully so.

It is also interesting to note that under certain circumstances, an unemployed husband can be required to pay alimony. For instance, in one recent court of appeals case the court upheld an award of a chancellor wherein the husband, now unemployed, had demonstrated previous earning capacities far in excess of that of his wife. One of the main reasons the court upheld this award was because of his acknowledgement of several relationships during the marriage and his dissipation of assets on trips and gifts for his girlfriend. It is crucial to understand that alimony is not intended to make the parties financially equal, and there are instances in which a denial of alimony will be affirmed by the court as well. It is important to keep in mind that earning capacity and ability to earn a sufficient living is a huge consideration for any court in an award of alimony. The chancellor in another recent and noteworthy court of appeals case determined that even though the wife had no income, she was a registered dietician and was able to renew her certification and training and thus had sufficient earning capacity. The court rejected her argument that the chancellor should have found that her husband had dissipated assets by paying $30,000 dollars to settle a separate lawsuit. The court viewed this as disposition of assets which were in fact marital.

If you need assistance in any alimony, permanent alimony, lump sum alimony, or any other issue dealing with modification of alimony, please feel free to call us. We’re best equipped to assist you and point you in the right direction as far as your legal rights are concerned. Law Office of Matthew Poole. 601.573.7429.

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