Herndon v. Herndon
305 N.W.2d 917 (1981)

  • Mr. Herndon was married to Mrs. Herndon for 17 years and they had 2 kids. Then they got a divorce.
  • As part of the divorce settlement, Mr. Herndon was ordered to pay some child support as well as some alimony.
  • A year later, Mr. Herndon asked the Court to reduce the child support and terminate the alimony, and was largely denied.
  • Two years after that, Mr. Herndon again asked the Court to reduce the child support and terminate the alimony.
    • Mr. Herndon argued that because of an appreciation of Mrs. Herndon’s assets, she didn’t need the money as much.
    • He also argued that because of health problems he couldn’t work as much and therefore couldn’t earn as much money as he used to.
      • That’s an involuntary material change of circumstances.
  • The Trial Court reduced the alimony from $600 a month to $250.
  • A few years after that, Mr. Herndon again went to the Court and asked them to terminate the alimony completely.
    • By this point, Mr. Herndon felt that his medical problems precluded him from working altogether.
      • Btw, he was a chiropractor and his arthritis in his hands.
  • The Trial Court rejected Mr. Herndon’s request. He appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that there was no new change in circumstances that could justify a change in alimony payments.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that there must be a material change in circumstances in order to make a modification to an order for support.
      • In addition, that change must be involuntary.
    • The Appellate Court noted that Mr. Herndon was not presently working, but could work, and people are not allowed to voluntarily reduce their income in an effort to get out of paying alimony.
      • Mr. Herndon had retained his medical license and kept paying the fees. That implied that Mr. Herndon didn’t really think he couldn’t work.
  • In a dissent it was argued that medical conditions are not voluntary and that Mr. Herndon could not work. In addition, by this point, Mrs. Herndon’s assets were considerably greater than Mr. Herndon’s, and so it was unfair to continue to make him pay.