In re Marriage of Pazhoor

971 N.W.2d 530 (2022)

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In re Marriage of Pazhoor

Iowa Supreme Court
971 N.W.2d 530 (2022)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Suraj Pazhoor (plaintiff) and Hancy Chennikkara (defendant) were married in India, where they were both licensed physicians. Pazhoor and Chennikkara subsequently moved to the United States, where only Pazhoor was able to obtain a medical license. Pazhoor and Chennikkara mutually agreed that Chennikkara would stay home to raise their two young children. Pazhoor’s career was successful, and he earned an annual income between $400,000 and $500,000. Pazhoor and Chennikkara’s lifestyle reflected Pazhoor’s substantial income. After 17 years of marriage, Pazhoor filed for divorce. Both Pazhoor and Chennikkara were in their early forties. At trial, Pazhoor and Chennikkara agreed that Chennikkara was entitled to alimony but disagreed as to the amount and duration. Chennikkara testified that her current earning capacity was low but that she planned to earn a master’s degree in public health. Chennikkara testified her studies would take at least three years, full time. It was undisputed that Pazhoor’s earning capacity was substantially higher than Chennikkara’s. The trial court awarded Pazhoor and Chennikkara joint custody, split the marital assets between them, ordered Pazhoor to pay Chennikkara a $144,000 equalization payment, awarded Chennikkara child support, and awarded Chennikkara $7,500 per month in alimony for five years. The trial court based its award in large part on income it imputed to Chennikkara. Chennikkara appealed, arguing that the imputed income was too high and that she was entitled to more alimony. The appellate court reversed and granted Chennikkara an increased alimony award totaling $1.2 million over 12 years. Pazhoor appealed, arguing that Chennikkara was entitled to only a limited transitional alimony award.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Waterman, J.)

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