The DC Court of Appeals in Lake v. Lake, focused on two specific elements in award of alimony dispute:
- The metal health influence over earning capacity, and
- The expected future investment income.
Generally, the trial court has sole discretion in awarding alimony and as such balances, inter alia, the following elements among parties in awarding alimony to one side or the other:
- The duration of the marriage,
- The ages and health of the parties,
- Their respective financial positions, both past and prospective,
- Property ownership,
- The needs of the requesting spouse and the other spouse’s ability to contribute thereto, and
- The interest of society generally in preventing [the requesting spouse] from becoming a public charge.
Here, Ms. Lake claimed that the trial court had abused its discretion by disregarding her uncontradicted testimony regarding the effect of the depression on her ability to work.
She has testified, and claimed that her depression seriously impeded her ability to obtain full-time employment as a court reporter because she found it difficult to concentrate thus seeking credit and consideration in award of alimony as her income capacity is diminished.
Although the trial court both acknowledged and considered her testimony pertaining to suffering from depression – the court specifically held that her testimony as to the debilitating effects of her depression lacked independent corroboration by the professionals attesting that her diagnosed depression in fact prevents her from working full time.
Moreover, the trial court noted that Ms. Lake was able to both concentrate and execute marketing and sale of the marital home, held two part time jobs, and together there was insufficient corroborating evidence supporting her claim that she was impeded from full earning capacity due to depression and mental health.
The trial court also imputed income on her in alimony calculations based on her potential investment income, and this issue was also reviewed by the appellate court.
The trial testimony and evidence established that Ms. Lake had approximately 250K in liquid assets. With a modest 5% percent annual increase – that would amount to $12,500.00 annually and thus the court implied that any shortfall in monthly income may be augmented by the investment interest. The inclusion of the expected investment interest in the award of alimony was both fair, just and reasonable.
The Court of Appeals overall held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in considering Ms. Lake’s reasonable prospective investment income in calculating and determining the appropriate amount of alimony.
The trial court has broad discretion in awarding alimony and this case highlights how the court considers both mental health as well as potential investment income in assessing and awarding alimony payments.