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How Badly Can a Forty Year Marriage End?


People often say that a marriage is a partnership. You each come into the marriage with your own property and your own way of doing things, then you must work to put it all together. Sometimes one or the other spouse is the primary breadwinner, and the other takes responsibility for keeping the family running smoothly. Just because one person stays at home does not mean that they contribute anything less to the marriage. But for some people it doesn’t work out like it is supposed to.

A recent case out of Baldwin County, Alabama showed exactly how badly a long marriage can end. A husband and wife that had been married since 1975 filed for divorce. The husband was owner of several businesses and was chair of the board of a bank. The wife was a stay-at-home mother who also contributed to the husband’s business pursuits by hosting social functions for the company, traveling on business trips, and volunteer service. Some would say that this, along with her raising their children, meant they were truly equal partners. But the court did not agree.

The husband made over $350,000 per year, and the couple together had well over $5 million in assets. However, a large portion of those assets were the shares of the businesses and of the bank. Nevertheless, the wife only asked for a little over $8,500 a month in alimony, their family home, and a percentage of their businesses. Instead, she got a fraction of what she asked for. Instead of $8,500 a month, she got $5,000 a month in alimony. Instead of getting half of the shares of the bank, she got 10% - which was less than what she originally held in her own name. And instead of getting part of the businesses, she got none of them. In total, she only got 12% of the marital property.

This probably does not seem fair, and one of the judges of the Court of Civil Appeals agreed. Judge William C. Thompson said that because the couple were in their sixties, they had been married over forty years, and their standard of living for that time that the way the property was divided was not fair at all. Even so, the rest of the appeals court stood with the husband. They said that because evidence heard in person cannot be reproduced—the “ore tenus” standard—it should be given great weight and the decision should only be overturned if it is clearly wrong. Further, Alabama courts have longstanding precedent saying that the division of property from a marriage does not have to be equal at all.

The lesson to be learned here is that no matter how much you put into a marriage, there is not guarantee that you will come out with anything close to what you put in. The best way to get through a divorce is to make sure you have an experienced divorce attorney. There is simply too much risk of getting a bad deal to do anything else. If you are involved in a divorce, call INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640 for a Birmingham divorce lawyer with the experience and knowledge that can make a difference in your case.

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