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Vick v. Hicks

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

November 17, 2014

BARBARA M. HICKS VICK
v.
BRANDON P. HICKS

Session Date October 21, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT00346711 Robert Samual Weiss, Judge

Christopher L. Nearn and David Michael Waldrop, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brandon P. Hicks.

Henry Warren Miller, III, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Barbara M. Hicks.

Arnold B.Goldin, J. delivered the opinion of the Court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Richard H. Dinkins, J. joined.

OPINION

ARNOLD B. GOLDIN, JUDGE

I. Background

This post-divorce action arises from the trial court's dismissal of Husband's petition to terminate his alimony obligation. Husband and Wife were originally divorced by a final decree of divorce that was entered on March 20, 2012. The final decree acknowledged that the parties had entered into a written MDA and permanent parenting plan, and it specifically incorporated both agreements by reference. The MDA purported to settle all issues regarding the parties' rights and obligations arising out of their marital relationship and contained various provisions allocating the parties' property and debts. In addition, the MDA contained a designated alimony provision under which Husband agreed to pay Wife "transitional alimony" for a sixty month period following the granting of the divorce. Notably, this alimony provision stated that "[t]he alimony shall not be modifiable by either party."

Subsequent to her divorce from Husband, Wife remarried. Citing this remarriage as an event that would justify relief under Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-121(g)(2)(C), Husband initiated the present action on June 12, 2013, by filing a petition to terminate his alimony obligation. Wife responded to Husband's petition on June 27, 2013, by moving the trial court to dismiss his petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The agreement that was established in the parties' MDA, she noted, specifically provided that Husband's alimony obligation was not subject to modification. On September 20, 2013, the trial court held a hearing on Wife's motion, and shortly thereafter, on November 4, 2013, the trial court entered a written order granting dismissal. In its order, the trial court stated that it was unable to modify the final decree and terminate Husband's alimony obligation due to the non-modification clause that accompanied the MDA's alimony provision. Asserting that this dismissal of his petition was in error, Husband now appeals to this Court.

II. Issue Presented

Husband raises[1] one issue on appeal, which we have restated as follows:

Whether the trial court erred in granting Wife's motion to dismiss Husband's petition to modify the final decree and terminate his alimony obligation.

III. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted "challenges only the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not the strength of the plaintiff's proof or evidence." Webb v. Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc., 346 S.W.3d 422, 426 (Tenn. 2011) (citations omitted). "The motion admits the truth of the factual allegations in the complaint but asserts that the alleged facts fail to establish a basis for relief." Stewart v. Schofield, 368 S.W.3d 457, 462 (Tenn. 2012) (citation omitted). Resolution of the motion is determined solely by an examination of the pleadings, and when considering a motion to dismiss, "courts must construe the assertions in the complaint liberally[.]" Leggett v. Duke Energy Corp., 308 S.W.3d 843, 851 (Tenn. 2010) (citations omitted). The motion should be granted only when "it appears that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle the plaintiff to relief[.]" White v. Revco Disc. Drug ...


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