WHAT MUST BE CONSIDERED IN DECIDING ALIMONY PAYMENTS?

When you are married, you have different roles in the relationship.  Sometimes both parties work to earn income to support the family.  Other times, one party works while the other stays home.  But what happens when the parties get divorced?  Deciding how to split income can be a huge area of contention in divorce.  One party may have a substantial need for alimony.  On the other hand, alimony payments may place a heavy burden on the party ordered to pay it. 

A recent case out of Mobile County, Alabama shows how judges decide these issues.  After a 17-year marriage, the parties decided to get a divorce.  The judge decided that the husband would need to make a one-time alimony payment of $150,000, as well as a monthly alimony payment of $5,000 a month.  15 years after the divorce, the husband filed a motion to end his monthly alimony payments.  He mentioned that he had retired from his career as a heart surgeon and, as a result, his income had decreased. 

Before the trial, the wife filed a motion to prevent the husband from presenting evidence about her decreased need for the alimony because the husband did not mention this in his motion.  The husband then requested that he be allowed to add this issue to his motion.  The trial judge rejected his request and would not allow any evidence of the wife’s decreased need for alimony.  At the end of the trial, the judge ordered that the monthly alimony payment be reduced to $3,000 a month.

This result does not seem fair.  The evidence that the judge disallowed showed that the wife now has an estate of over $400,000, was debt-free, and was collecting Social Security benefits.  The Court of Appeals agreed that it was unfair to exclude this evidence.  They pointed out that the trial court was required to consider the financial needs of the person receiving the alimony payments when determining whether a change in the payments would be warranted. 

The court also looked to one of the rules of Alabama Civil Procedure, which allows a motion to be changed to include other evidence if it helps issues in a case to be decided and it would not hurt the other party.  In the end, the Court of Appeals decided that the trial court decision should be reversed because it should not have excluded the evidence of the wife’s financial status, and the error in excluding this evidence hurt the husband’s argument that he should no longer be required to pay alimony.

I am glad that the court fixed this error.  Alimony payments have can have a huge financial impact on both parties, and it would be unfair for the judge to not consider significant issues because of a technical error.  If you are going through a divorce, you need a lawyer who is experienced in all of these issues.  Joseph A. Ingram of INGRAM LAW LLC has the knowledge and experience necessary to make a difference in your case.  Contact him today at 205-236-3997.

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