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Turman v. Turman

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 14, 2015

COLETTE SUZANNE TURMAN
v.
FRED TURMAN

Session March 11, 2015

Appeal from the Chancery Court for Henry County No. 20745 Carma Dennis McGee, Chancellor[1]

George Robert Whitfield, III, Paris, Tennessee, for the appellant, Colette Suzanne Turman.

Donald Capparella and Elizabeth Sitgreaves, Nashville, Tennessee for the appellee, Fred Turman. [2]

J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Brandon O. Gibson J., and Kenny Armstrong, J., joined.

OPINION

J. STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE.

Colette Suzanne Turman ("Wife") and Fred Turman ("Husband") married in 1985. No children were born of the marriage. In 2008, Wife filed a complaint for divorce in the Henry County Chancery Court, Chancellor Ron E. Harmon presiding, alleging irreconcilable differences. Husband answered the complaint, admitting that irreconcilable differences existed, and filed a counter-complaint for divorce alleging that Wife engaged in inappropriate marital conduct and asking that he be awarded periodic alimony both pendente lite and permanent. Wife later amended her complaint to add an allegation that Husband had also been guilty of inappropriate marital conduct.

The parties jointly owned two rental properties. The rental properties and the marital home were sold at auction during the pendency of the divorce. The auction yielded $784, 458.88. On May 10, 2010, the trial court entered an order directing the parties to reserve $150, 000.00 of the auction proceeds to be determined by the trial court in the divorce proceedings. These funds were deposited with the Henry County Clerk and Master. The remaining proceeds were equally divided by the parties.

Husband purchased the marital home at auction for $183, 105.20.[3] Because the parties agreed to equally divide the proceeds of the auction (less the $150, 000.00 held by the clerk), Wife was entitled to one-half of the proceeds gained from the sale of the home. Husband paid this share to Wife by increasing the amount of the remaining proceeds that Wife was entitled to receive.[4] After taking into account the accumulation of interest, the Clerk and Master held $150, 791.68.

On October 13, 2010, the trial court entered an order referring many of the disputes in the case to a Special Master, the Henry County Clerk and Master. The order appointing the Special Master indicated that the Special Master was to make findings regarding questions submitted by the parties. The parties subsequently submitted questions to the Special Master. The majority of the issues concerned the valuation of the parties' property and the treatment of certain assets during the pendency of the divorce.

The record indicates that the Special Master held hearings on March 23, March 30, and April 20, 2011;[5] however, no transcript is included in the record from any of the purported hearings before the Special Master. The Special Master filed her report on October 17, 2012.[6] The Special Master assigned values for the property at issue in the divorce and made factual findings regarding how some property was acquired or used during the marriage. For example, with regard to a personal injury suit filed jointly by the parties, the Special Master made findings with regard to the value of the suit but declined to indicate how such property should be divided in the divorce, leaving that determination to the trial court. Similarly, the Special Master considered the value in several of the parties' bank accounts and whether they were titled jointly; the Special Master, however, declined to determine whether any of the funds were marital or separate or to make a ruling as to who would be awarded what funds in the divorce. In addition, both parties submitted questions regarding dissipation of marital assets during the pendency of the divorce; the Special Master made findings regarding withdrawals made by the parties but declined to rule that such withdrawals were properly considered dissipation and offered no suggestion as to how these withdrawals would affect the division of marital property. No written objections were ever filed as to the findings of the Special Master, nor has any party raised an issue regarding the Special Master's valuations as issues on appeal.

The parties held a hearing on the issues remaining to be determined in the divorce on October 22, 2012. At the outset of the hearing, the trial court indicated that it was concurring in the report of the Special Master. The parties presented no testimony at this hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court made some oral rulings with regard to the division of marital property. No order was subsequently entered memorializing those findings. As such, on November 12, 2012, counsel for Husband filed a motion for the trial court to make "written findings of fact and conclusions of law prior to the entry of judgment." The trial court entered an order awarding the parties an absolute divorce on March 18, 2013 but reserved all other issues. The next day, March 19, 2013, the trial court entered an order allowing each party to withdraw $15, 000.00 from the funds held by the trial court. Each party withdrew these funds, leaving a balance of $120, 791.68. The order allowing the withdrawals indicates that "the distribution to each party will be charged against that party's interest [a]s ultimately determined[, ] with the remaining funds to continue to be held by the Clerk and Master as previously ordered[.]"

On July 25, 2013, the trial court entered its Final Decree of Divorce. The order indicates that the trial court heard no additional proof before ruling. In this order, the trial court divided the remainder of the funds obtained at auction between the parties, [7] awarded each party the personal property in his or her possession, equally divided the value of the parties' life insurance policies, and awarded Husband the value of the parties' Morgan Keegan account, as well as an aluminum car hauler and Husband's mother's jewelry. The parties were also ordered to equally divide the court costs and fees of the Special Master, which would be deducted from each party's share of the funds deposited with the Clerk and Master. Thereafter, Husband withdrew his motion for findings of fact and conclusions of law. Wife filed a timely notice of appeal. However, on March 6, 2014, this Court dismissed her appeal for lack of a final judgment, as many of the issues in the parties' divorce complaints remained unresolved by the trial court's written order. See Turman v. Turman, No. W2013-01938-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 887341, at *5 (Tenn. Ct. App. March 6, 2014).

On June 16, 2014, the trial court, [8] Chancellor Carma McGee presiding, entered its second Final Decree of Divorce, which resolved all outstanding issues. This order indicated that both parties withdrew any claims for alimony, that all outstanding contempt petitions were dismissed, that all property other than an aluminum car hauler and certain jewelry were properly considered marital property, that all marital debts had been paid during the pendency of the first appeal, and that each party would pay his or her own attorney's fee. From the record, it appears that many of these rulings were gleaned from the parties' and trial court's oral statements during the October 22, 2012 hearing or were based upon agreement of the parties.[9] Wife filed a second timely notice of appeal.

Issues Presented

Wife raises the following issues, which are taken and slightly restated from her appellate brief:

1. Whether the trial court erred in calculating and allocating the funds held by ...

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