February 26, 2015 Session
Appeal from the Chancery Court for Williamson County No. 37567 Timothy L. Easter, Judge
Philip M. Jacobs, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rebecca Burke Pair.
Rose Palermo, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Chris Franklin Pair.
Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Andy D. Bennett and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ. joined.
RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE
I. Factual Background
This appeal arises from the divorce of Rebecca Burke Pair ("Wife") and Chris Franklin Pair ("Husband"), who were married on April 9, 1988; two children were born of the marriage in December 1992 and September 1995. The parties separated on January 18, 2010, and on January 28, Wife filed a complaint for divorce citing irreconcilable differences and/or inappropriate marital conduct. Husband filed an answer and a counter complaint for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct as grounds.
The parties stipulated to the divorce pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-129, and proceeded to trial on December 4-6, 2013 on the issues of valuation and division of marital property and spousal support. On January 9, 2014, the court entered an order that inter alia, declared the parties divorced; divided the marital property; awarded Wife transitional alimony in the amount of $5, 000 per month for 24 months which, if she was not married or cohabitating after the 24 month period, would be reduced to $3, 000 per month until she reached the age of 67; and awarded Wife $25, 000 alimony in solido for attorneys' fees.
Wife filed a timely appeal contending that the court erred by failing to find that Husband had dissipated marital funds, that its division of marital assets was inequitable, that the award of $25, 000 in alimony in solido was insufficient, and that she should have been awarded alimony in futuro.
A.) Division of the Marital Estate
In a divorce action, the division of the marital estates begins with classifying the parties' property as either separate or marital. Miller v. Miller, 81 S.W.3d 771, 775 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001). Marital property is defined as "all real and personal property, both tangible and intangible, acquired by either or both spouses during the course of the marriage up to the date of the final divorce hearing and owned by either or both spouses as of the date of filing of a complaint for divorce . . . ." Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-121(b)(1). Once property has been classified as marital property, the court is to place a reasonable value on the property that is subject to division. Edmisten v. Edmisten, No. M2001-00081-COA-R3-CV, 2003 WL 21077990, at *11 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 13, 2003). After valuation, the trial court is to make an equitable division of the property. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-121(a)(1); Miller, 81 S.W.3d at 775.
Dividing a marital estate is not a mechanical process but, rather, is guided by considering the factors in Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-121(c), Kinard v. Kinard, 986 S.W.2d 220, 230 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998); it does not require that the property be divided equally. Robertson v. Robertson, 76 S.W.3d 337, 341 (Tenn. 2002). Although marital debt is not defined by statute, it is subject to equitable division in the same manner as marital property. Larsen-Ball v. Ball, 301 S.W.3d 228, 233 (Tenn. 2010). Trial courts have wide latitude in fashioning an equitable division of marital property, Fisher v. Fisher, 648 S.W.2d 244, 246 (Tenn. 1983), and this court accords great weight to the trial court's division of marital property. Wilson v. Moore, 929 S.W.2d 367, 372 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1996). Thus, we defer to the trial court's division of the marital estate unless it is inconsistent with the factors at Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-121(c) or is not supported by a preponderance of the evidence. Brown v. Brown, 913 S.W.2d 163, 168 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1994).
Here, the parties do not contest the classification or valuation of the marital property; the issue is whether the court's division was equitable.
i.) Dissipation of Marital Funds
In dividing marital property, the court is to consider whether either party has dissipated any of the marital assets. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-121(c)(5)(A). Dissipation of assets requires a showing of intentional, purposeful, and wasteful conduct. Altman v. Altman, 181 S.W.3d 676, 682 (Tenn. ...