Alimony for "Indeterminate" Amount of Time is Okay

The Arkansas Court of Appeals has affirmed a trial court's decision awarding alimony to a spouse for an "indeterminate" amount of time.  (See Elliott v. Elliott decided April 25, 2012)

The appellate court stated the following about the trial court: "The court ordered alimony to continue for an indefinite time subject to termination by death, remarriage, or a material change in circumstances of the parties."

My first thought about the trial court's language was that it was problematic.  The order needed to either specify that this was permanent alimony or that it was rehabilitative/temporary alimony that would terminate on a certain date or upon a certain occurrence.  But in reality, the language used by the trial court is really just another way of ordering permanent alimony because alimony is always modifiable if there is a material change in circumstances.  (Matthews v. Matthews 2009 Ark. App. 400)  Further, alimony, by statute (A.C.A. 9-12-312), terminates upon the death or remarriage of the party receiving the alimony.

So the trial court's language, while not the best choice, may in fact not detract much from the actual intent of the court's order.

Note:  There is also an interesting discussion about the husband's medical school loan of about $103,000.00.  Apparently, the husband wanted the wife to take on a portion (presumably half) of this debt in the divorce.  The trial court ordered that husband take it all because he was in a much better position to retire the debt than the wife due to his substantial income ($500,000 per year).  Always important to remember that in Arkansas there is NOT a presumption that debt should be split equally - only that it should be split equitably.  Big difference.  (A.C.A. 9-12-315; and see Keathley v. Keathley, 76 Ark. App. 150 (2001) for one example on the topic)