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Tennessee Court Denied Wife’s Request for Spousal Support in Divorce


Divorce is a difficult process. It can be disruptive, both emotionally and financially. Many spouses are reluctant to pursue divorce for these reasons and many others, especially if there are children involved. One significant matter that affects virtually every case is the question of spousal support: the amount of money one party pays the other, each month, for financial support. This is separate and apart from child support, an entirely different concept. Tennessee law sets forth a variety of factors for a court to consider when determining whether, and to what extent, to award spousal support. Therefore, parties will be expected to present evidence to support or counter a request for spousal support.

In a recent case in Nashville, Litton v. Litton, the court denied the wife’s request for spousal support. Here, the parties were married in 1998 and had one child together in 2003. In 2011, the husband filed for divorce, alleging that his wife was guilty of inappropriate marital conduct. The wife counter-claimed for legal separation and sought spousal support, among other items. During the divorce trial, evidence revealed that although the husband was fired from his job as a police officer, he would be entitled to retirement benefits of $1,100 per month upon retirement age. Following the husband’s termination from the police department, the family lost their health insurance.

The couple owns a house together, which is secured by a significant mortgage. The wife stopped working when the couple had their child, and she has stayed home to raise him. The parties had intended for the wife to home-school their child. As of the date of the trial, the husband was working 36 hours a week at Macy’s, earning $10.36 per hour. Wife’s expenses were approximately $3,111 per month. Both parties were approximately 39 years old at the time of the hearing.

The trial court entered a final decree of divorce in January 2013. As part of the decree, the court divided the marital assets as follows. The wife could stay in the marital home until it was sold, and then the proceeds would be divided evenly. The parties would each get half of the husband’s retirement account. Each spouse would get one vehicle, and the credit card debt would be allocated according to who incurred the debt. The court also ordered the husband to pay $430.00 in child support each month, based on his gross monthly income of $2,049.49. The court denied the wife’s request for spousal support, concluding that the husband had no ability to pay, after reviewing income, expenses, and debt and property division. The wife appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed the decision, first pointing out that under established Tennessee law, trial courts are accorded wide discretion in determining spousal support. Here, the court looked at the statutory factors that the trial court reviewed in making its determination and found that the two most significant items – the disadvantaged spouse’s need and the obligor’s ability to pay – render the trial court’s decision to deny spousal support “not clearly unreasonable.” The court noted that the wife failed to provide sufficient evidence to support her claim for support, and that the parties are of similar age and educational backgrounds and both received similar distributions in the divorce.

As this case illustrates, divorce has the potential to change a family’s standard of living. There are ways to protect your financial interests in divorce. One of the best courses of action is contact a local family law attorney who will work to achieve the best possible settlement under the circumstances of your case.

Widrig Law PLLC is an experienced family law firm serving clients in Nashville, Murfreesboro, Franklin, Mt Juliet, Smyrna, Lebanon, Fairview, Bellevue, Gallatin, Springfield, and Clarksville. We offer initial consultations. If you have questions about divorce, spousal support, or any other matters, just call us at 615-417-7800 to schedule your consultation.

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