Church v. Church - 2010
The alimony modification case of Church v. Church was filed Dec. 20, 2010 by the Tennessee Court of Appeals Middle Section. On appeal, Husband argued two important aspects that caught my attention. The opinion also contained the “quote of the year”.
First, Husband argued that the trial court erred in considering income generated from two restaurants awarded to him in the original divorce in assessing his ability to pay alimony. He contends that, because the ownership interest in the restaurants was awarded to him in the property division, the income produced by them should not be considered in determining whether his alimony obligation should be modified. The Court stated that regardless of whether the trial court in the original divorce proceedings considered the restaurant income in setting Husband’s alimony obligation, the trial court in this modification proceeding is not precluded from doing so. As stated in the opinion, the T.C.A. allows income from all sources as a relevant factor to be considered in determining an award of alimony and a modification of alimony (emphasis added). Trial court ruling was upheld.
The case seemingly clarifies an important aspect of Tennessee forensic accounting-related case law by allowing income generated by income-producing assets (in this case a small business) to be used in determining the ability to pay alimony even if that related income stream was used to help value the asset for division purposes. Using the income stream for both purposes is apparently not a "double-dip".
Second, Husband argued that the trial court erred in not reducing or eliminating his alimony obligation due to his having to take a new job at lower pay and making bad investment decisions. The trial court found that his standard of living had not declined despite the job loss and failed investments by way of spending over $45k on luxury items, gambling and taking lavish personal trips with his new wife even during the period of his job search. When Husband was asked about the trips, he was quoted in the opinion as saying: "[M]y wife likes to go places. She's young." Trial court ruling was upheld.