Some Thoughts About Modification of Alimony

February 29, 2016 § 1 Comment

Last week I posted about the COA’s decision in Hughes v. Hughes, affirming the chancellor’s conclusion that the petitioner at trial had failed to prove cohabitation, mutual financial support, or de facto marriage so as to terminate his ex-wife’s periodic alimony.

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Before you pocket the fee and set off on a quest to terminate or reduce alimony, be sure you are up to date on the law. Many of the old, moralistic rules that we older lawyers recall are long gone. Hughes includes a nice recap of the evolution of our present rules.
  • Hughes illustrates just how difficult it can be to terminate alimony. Make sure you have proof that invokes every factor. These cases are extremely fact-intensive; they warrant careful and extensive discovery. You will lose if you file your pleadings, set the case for trial, and expect to win simply because the ex told someone that she and her new boyfriend have a romantic relationship.
  • In Hughes, these facts were not enough to tote the load: Muriel and Darrell had a monogamous romantic relationship for more than four years; Darrell stayed overnight at Muriel’s home around once a week, and she occasionally spent the night at his; the two travelled together, and Muriel is a member of Darrell’s barbecue competition team; they travel together to Corvette car shows; they attend family events together; when travelling they stay in the same hotel room or in the barbecue trailer; Darrell gave Muriel valuable jewelry; Darrell stored a Corvette in Muriel’s garage; Darrell displayed one of his Corvettes in Kentucky with a plaque that read, “On loan from Darrell Hill & Muriel Hughes.”
  • You just have to love the facts recited from Burrus at ¶24: Jolee spent more than $7,500 on her boyfriend’s criminal defense and paid for “his motel rooms while he was attempting to evade arrest; and she got a tattoo that said, “James’ girl.” You can’t make that kind of stuff up.

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