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A grant of alimony is an issue within the sound discretion of the chancellor that will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion. Although many factors are considered in setting the amount of alimony, the primary factors are the need of one spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay. Ordinarily, fault or marital misconduct is not a factor in an award of alimony. However, fault and misconduct will be considered when it meaningfully relates to need or ability to pay.
Appellee was employed for several years by a consulting firm in Dallas and delivered much of her considerable earnings to appellant, in amounts up to $12,000 per month, with the express understanding that he would use these funds for marital purposes, such as reduction of debt on the parties' real property. However, appellant used the marital assets to fund his extramarital affairs rather than pay debt on marital property. Moreover, appellant forged the appellee’s name on several documents, including tax returns. After the grant of divorce, the trial court awarded alimony in favor of appellee. Appellant challenged the decision, contending that the award of alimony was improper because he was 85 years old.
Was the trial court’s award of alimony to appellee improper in light of appellant’s advanced age?
The decision of the trial court was affirmed. According to the court, the fact that the appellant diverted martial funds was appropriately considered in the award of alimony since it related to the appellee’s need. The evidence showed that the appellee faced bankruptcy due to the appellant's actions. The amount awarded was within the appellant's ability to pay since he was still employment. In response to the appellant’s concern about the termination of his job, the appellate court noted that the award was subject to revision if the circumstances changed.