Phillip Woodson v. Carol Woodson

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December 7, 2005


[NO. DR2003-716]




John Mauzy Pittman, Chief Judge

This is an appeal from a divorce decree limited to issues concerning alimony. Appellant ex-husband was ordered to pay alimony to appellee, and he argues on appeal that there were insufficient facts upon which to base an award of alimony, that the amount of alimony awarded was excessive, and that the method of payment ordered was improper. We affirm.

We review equity cases de novo and will not reverse a finding of fact by the trial judge unless it is clearly erroneous. Sanford v. Sanford, 355 Ark. 274, 137 S.W.3d 391 (2003). A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Id.

The trial court ordered appellee to pay in alimony an amount equal to half his income, minus the amounts he was required to pay for child support, health insurance, and mortgage payment. Appellant's income calculation was based on his income for the previous year.

The main thrust of appellant's challenge to the award of alimony is that it is inappropriate because there were no "objective findings" to support a determination that appellee is disabled. This requirement, however, is limited to the law of workers' compensation, and appellant cites nothing to support the need for such findings in the context of alimony. There was extensive medical evidence to show that appellee had serious and disabling health problems and medical expenses. There was also evidence that appellee was not eligible for social security disability benefits because, as a stay-at-home mother and homemaker, she had not worked during the marriage and had not made sufficient payments into the system to entitle her to benefits. There was further evidence that appellee did attempt to work late in the marriage but that her efforts at employment failed because of her medical condition.

The award of alimony is not mandatory, but is instead discretionary, and the trial court's decision regarding any such award will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Powell v. Powell, 82 Ark. App. 17, 110 S.W.3d 290 (2003). The purpose of alimony is to rectify, insofar as is reasonably possible, the frequent economic imbalance in the earning power and standard of living of the divorced parties in light of the particular facts of each case. Holaway v. Holaway, 70 Ark. App. 240, 16 S.W.3d 302 (2000). The primary factors to be considered in awarding alimony are the need of one spouse and the other spouse's ability to pay; secondary factors that may also be considered in setting alimony include: (1) the financial circumstances of both parties, (2) the amount and nature of the income, and (3) the extent and nature of the resources and assets of each of the parties. Id. On this record, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding alimony.

Appellant next argues that the award of alimony is excessive because half of his income is devoted to meeting the obligations set forth in the order. We note, however, thatmuch of these payments are earmarked for child support and house payments rather than alimony. In Forest v. Forest, 279 Ark. 115, 649 S.W.2d 173 (1983), the supreme court held that a $522 monthly alimony award to be paid out of appellant's $1,034 monthly income was not excessive considering that $212 of the $522 was for the house payment, which operated to the appellant's benefit since one-half of the house was his. The order in the present case likewise provides that the equity in the house will be divided upon its eventual sale and, under the circumstances of the case, we cannot say the amount of the alimony award was excessive.

Finally, appellant argues that the method of payment ordered by the trial court was improper because it requires him to pay $2,075.00 in alimony per month from an available monthly income of $2,952.54, leaving him with insufficient funds for his own living expenses. However, the decree does not so provide, but instead requires appellant to pay one-half of the amount of his paycheck when he receives it and allows for periodic adjustments to coincide with appellant's receipt of his quarterly bonus. We find no error, and we affirm.


Bird and Neal, JJ., agree.