Session Date: January 13, 2015
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County No. 13D-454 L. Marie Williams, Judge
John T. Rice, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Robert Allan Inman, Jr.
Leslie B. McWilliams, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Glenna Randolph Inman.
CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which JOHN W. McCLARTY and THOMAS R. FRIERSON, II, JJ., joined.
CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., CHIEF JUDGE
Wife filed for divorce on February 21, 2013. Husband filed an answer and counterclaim on April 9, 2013. Wife filed a motion for alimony pendente lite, which the trial court granted, by order entered December 18, 2013, in the amount of $2, 000 per month. The parties entered into a mediated settlement agreement that addressed and disposed of all issues save alimony. The question of alimony was tried before the court on March 6, 2014. Only the parties testified. Husband argued that Wife was voluntarily underemployed. Wife asserted that she was working as much as she could, given her poor health condition and her other circumstances. On April 17, 2014, the trial court entered a final judgment approving and incorporating the settlement agreement. The court awarded Wife alimony in futuro of $1, 900 per month.
Husband appeals, raising two issues:
1.Did the trial court err in awarding Wife alimony in futuro?
2. Did the trial court err in finding that Wife was not voluntarily underemployed?
The Supreme Court has provided the standards and principles that guide our review of a trial court's alimony decision:
For well over a century, Tennessee law has recognized that trial courts should be accorded wide discretion in determining matters of spousal support. This well-established principle still holds true today, with this Court repeatedly and recently observing that trial courts have broad discretion to determine whether spousal support is needed and, if so, the nature, amount, and duration of the award.
Equally well-established is the proposition that a trial court's decision regarding spousal support is factually driven and involves the careful balancing of many factors. As a result, "[a]ppellate courts are generally disinclined to second-guess a trial judge's spousal support decision." Rather, "[t]he role of an appellate court in reviewing an award of spousal support is to determine whether the trial court applied the correct legal standard and reached a decision that is not clearly unreasonable." Appellate courts decline to second-guess a trial court's decision absent an abuse of discretion. An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court causes an injustice by applying an incorrect legal standard, reaches an illogical result, resolves the case on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence, or relies on reasoning that causes an injustice. This standard does not permit an appellate court to substitute its judgment for that of the trial court, but " 'reflects an awareness that the decision being reviewed involved a choice among several acceptable alternatives, ' and thus 'envisions a less rigorous review of the lower court's decision and a decreased ...