Transitional Alimony Modified To Alimony In Futuro Lunn V Lunn

As written about in previous blog posts, transitional alimony is support paid by a former spouse to the other spouse for a specified amount of time when one spouse needs some Alimony time to adjust to new financial realities and circumstances after divorce. Alimony in futuro is usually permanent unless circumstances changes.

The facts of Lunn v. Lunn are Andrew R. Lunn, DDS (Husband) and Michelle Lunn (Wife) married on June 17, 1995, and separated on February 13, 2011. They are the parents of three children, who were ages fifteen, thirteen, and eleven at the time of trial. Husband is a dentist who operates a practice in Chattanooga as a sole proprietor. Wife was a registered nurse who did not maintain her nursing certification but worked primarily as a homemaker since the birth of the parties’ first child in 1996. Wife had been employed on a part-time basis as office manager for Husband’s dental practice.

In 2009, Husband became involved in an extra-marital relationship with his dental assistant. Wife discovered the relationship on October 2010. Following months of marital counseling, the parties separated in February 2011, with Husband renting an apartment and Wife and the children remaining in the marital residence. As Husband maintained payment of the marital responsibilities pending the parties’ divorce, he provided Wife a weekly allowance of $600 for food and gas expenses.

After a hearing, the Chattanooga trial court determined applicable statutory factors weighed in favor of an award of alimony to Wife. Finding that Wife needed time to reestablish her career, the trial court awarded her rehabilitative alimony of $3600 per month for three years. Also finding that Wife would not be able to earn an income comparable to that of Husband, the trial court awarded her transitional alimony in progressively decreasing amounts for 16 years, the approximate duration of the parties’ marriage. Wife was awarded $6451 per month for three months, $2288 per month for eight years, and $500 per month for eight years after that. Lastly, the trial court also awarded Wife alimony in solido (lump sum) of $207,000 to pay her attorney’s fees.

Husband appealed to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee At Knoxville arguing the award of transitional alimony was in error because transitional (or short term) alimony should not have been awarded for a period of 16 years.

After hearing oral arguments and reviewing the record, the Appellate Court concluded the following:

Wife’s ability to achieve partial rehabilitation is not disputed, thus the award of rehabilitative alimony is proper. We conclude, however, that it is appropriate to modify the transitional alimony award to an award of alimony in futuro. As previously explained, transitional alimony should be awarded where rehabilitation is not necessary. If, as here, the disadvantaged spouse can be only partially rehabilitated, an award of alimony in futuro may be granted in addition to rehabilitative alimony. Having determined that the trial court correctly found that Wife would experience an ongoing need for alimony beyond the period of rehabilitation, we conclude alimony in futuro would be the more appropriate form of this award. We therefore modify the trial court’s judgment accordingly. We conclude that $2,288 per month is an appropriate amount based on the purpose of rendering the standard of living reasonably comparable between the two households.

Therefore, The Court of Appeals modified the trial court’s award of transitional alimony to alimony in futuro of $2288.

If you aren’t the primary income earner, considering divorce, but concerned whether or not you will be able to realize the same quality of life from a financial standpoint as you did during your marriage, you should seek the services of an experienced family law attorney. Contact attorney Donna Wagner for a consultation.

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