When a marriage ends, it is often uncertain how each person is going to make their way forward. In a marriage, you become accustomed to a certain style and standard of living. According to the law, after the marriage both individuals are supposed to have the same standard of living they had during the marriage. How the courts get there is another matter.
In a recent Lauderdale County case, a court showed exactly how complicated getting both spouses to that same standard of living can be. In this case, the husband owned a dental laboratory. From the dental laboratory, he drew a significant salary – over $100,000 a year. The dental laboratory itself was valued at over $500,000. The court ordered the husband to pay $800 a month in permanent periodic alimony, $125,000 alimony in gross paid over 13 years, and $1,138 per month in child support.
The husband challenged this award, saying that the court had not considered his lower income in 2016 and the reduced value of the dental lab. The court determined that his monthly gross income was over $11,000 per month. However, alimony is not calculated solely on the spouses’ income. Instead, it is based on what the court determines to be their ability to earn money. The evidence in this case showed that the husband had the ability to earn $9,333 per month. Since his total alimony payments, even including the alimony in gross, were less than $2,000 per month, the court believed this was manageable.
The husband appealed, claiming that he could not afford to pay the alimony. As evidence, he again pointed to the reduced income for him and the dental lab in 2016. However, the husband did not produce the financial data for the dental lab in 2016 until the last day of trial. Even with that data, the husband still had a burden to prove that to the trial court. However, all he did to “prove” that it was going to have a serious effect on his income potential was to testify that the lab was “not worth much of anything.”
Another interesting point in this case was the husband’s failure to produce bank statements for the business. Because those documents were not produced for the trial, the wife had to hire an expert witness to try to figure out what the business was worth. The expert witness cost the wife $3,500, and the court ordered the husband to pay for it. However, the appeals court said that was not permitted. The rules for expert witnesses require each party to pay for their expert witnesses, and the court could not go around that just because the husband did not produce documents.
This is a very interesting case for a lot of reasons, but what I found most interesting was the way the trial court awarded the alimony. The records show that the court was originally going to award her more, and I think that based on the numbers the court would have been justified in doing so. Having an attorney with experience and knowledge of how divorce cases work can make a huge difference in alimony awards. If you want a knowledgeable attorney in Birmingham who can make a difference in your case, call Ingram Law LLC at 205-335-2640.