Most divorce cases that reach the news in the United States involve celebrities and professional athletes. These stories can provide great insight for the public regarding how the divorce process works, as everyone filing within a state is subjected to the same rules, regardless of their net worth or fame. All divorces can possibly result in long battles that will require the assistance of an attorney who is familiar with the local court system and state laws.
A high profile divorce in the state of Alabama that resulted in a reversal on appeal was related to NBA player Wesley Person’s separation with his wife.
Terms of basketball player’s divorce overturned on appeal
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals sent the case back to a lower court for reconsideration after his 2013 separation from his wife Lillian was examined. The Crenshaw County judge who made the initial decision had his final order of divorce partially overturned.
Part of the opinion states that the couple had essentially been living off of investments while Person earned approximately $40 million over the course of his time in the NBA. They also had disagreements regarding a number of issues related to incidents before and during the divorce. Person’s wife, Lillian, said that he had committed adultery during the course of their marriage.
A decision to award alimony to Lillian was the main point of contention. The appeals court sided with Wesley, saying that the trial court should revisit their decision to award alimony to his wife, as she already received approximately $2 million from their divorce. There was also no specific finding by the lower court saying why alimony would be necessary. Considering alimony is generally meant to maintain the standard of living a lower earning spouse had during the marriage, it is difficult to imagine a situation where several million dollars will not be sufficient.
Even before this separation, their marriage had highly publicized troubles for years before they finally went through the courts. Person had previously been arrested and taken to Crenshaw County Jail for domestic violence at his home in Luverne in late 2012. One of his neighbors commented that his competitive nature probably led to marital problems, however others recounted his positive contributions to the local community, despite these personal issues and criminal charges.
Person played professionally for about a decade from the mid 1990s to early 2000s in the NBA, most notably for the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers. He is a native of Brantley, Alabama who attended Auburn University.
How often will issues decided in divorce court change after an appeal?
Decisions that get overturned on appeal are actually quite rare in family court, mainly because judges have a lot of discretion in their rulings. There will need to be a finding of misapplied law or abuse of discretion by an appellate court, otherwise the family court’s decision will stand.
The best family lawyers are always prepared to handle appellate issues as they arise. This is why it is crucial to select a legal professional who will be an aggressive advocate for your rights. After an initial meeting, your attorney should provide you with sufficient information to allow you to make an informed decision regarding your family issues.
What are some important points that can be taken away from this news story?
Couples tend to care the most about money, property, and child custody when they are going through the divorce process. In Alabama, the court will classify all property the couple has as either marital or separate property. As a general rule, litigants should be prepared to have most of their property considered property of the marriage rather than separate unless it was clearly acquired before the wedding date. Courts can decide on an equitable distribution of property, which essentially means fair but has no exact definition.
Alimony has also become a somewhat controversial topic. Some states have introduced efforts to limit alimony payments, as they can become a huge burden for someone who is still paying their ex-spouse large amounts years later. As this news story shows, courts may be more willing to decide that alimony is unnecessary if the spouse with lower earning potential is still able to maintain a reasonable standard of living after the separation. However, it is still best to speak with your lawyer about how alimony will be decided in your particular situation.
Learn more about the divorce process in the state of Alabama
To get help from an experienced local attorney before a divorce, custody hearing, or other related family law issues, contact Jackie Brown Attorney at Law. You will receive individualized advice during an initial consultation regarding how to proceed and what to expect if you need to appear in court in the Mobile area.