FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-26
Every couple acquires property during the course of their marriage. If they divorce, they must either agree on how to divide this property or allow a court to divide it for them. Depending on the spouses’ individual economic status, one spouse may also be required to pay monthly ongoing support to the other.
In a recent case, the Court of Appeals of Arkansas discussed the rules pertaining to marital property division and spousal support in Arkansas divorce cases.
The case involved a couple who had been married for 17 years. They did not have children together, but shared significant assets.
Division of Marital Property
As in most divorce cases, both spouses were allowed to keep their individual non-marital property. Non-marital property — also called “separate property” — includes property a spouse owned before the marriage, as well as certain gifts, inheritances, and medical expense recoveries from personal injury, workers’ compensation and Social Security claims.
However, the spouses did have to divide their marital property. Arkansas courts are required to distribute marital property equitably between the spouses.
For the most part, the couple was able to reach an equitable resolution. However, they disagreed when it came to dividing the husband’s veterinary clinic.
The judge in the divorce case allowed the husband to keep control of the veterinary clinic in exchange for a one-time buyout payment of $270,000. Basically, the judge put a value on the marital interest in the clinic and then gave the wife half. The court’s determination of value was based on competing evidence presented by each spouse’s CPA.
On appeal, the husband argued that the court erred in valuing the clinic. The appeals court disagreed. In Arkansas divorce appeals, the general rule is that the appeals court defers to the factual findings of a trial court unless the trial court’s decision was clearly erroneous. In this case, the appeals court reviewed the evidence and found no reason to think the trial court judge had made a mistake.
Spousal Support Awards
The trial court judge also ordered the husband to pay the wife $2,000 per month in alimony. On appeal, the husband argued that he could not afford to make these payments, and that the wife did not need them because she had a job as a teacher.
Again, the appeals court disagreed with the husband. It noted that the purpose of spousal support is not to provide the receiving spouse with only a basic standard of living, but rather to create an equitable solution considering both spouses’ needs and their ability to pay. This is why Arkansas alimony payments are not based on a set mathematical formula.
Further, the appeals court correctly noted that the husband would be able to seek modification of the monthly alimony payment if he experienced a change in circumstances.
Arkansas High-Asset Divorces
These are just a few of the issues that are present in Arkansas divorce cases where the couple shared significant assets or income. If you are facing a similar situation, be sure to contact an experienced Little Rock high net-worth divorce attorney who can help protect your interests.