Session Date: March 11, 2015
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County No. 12D1015 Jacqueline S. Bolton, Judge
Leslie B. McWilliams, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lisa Culver.
Sandra J. Bott, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michael Todd Culver.
D. Michael Swiney, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.
D. MICHAEL SWINEY, JUDGE
Husband and Wife were married in 1992. The parties have two minor children, K.C. and T.C. In May 2012, Husband filed for divorce against Wife. In September 2013, Wife filed a motion for contempt, alleging that Husband had failed to pay his court ordered portion of the children's private school tuition. This case was tried in December 2013.
Both parties are college-educated and in their mid-forties. Husband is a member of the National Guard, and also an information technologist at CSX Railroad. Wife is an auditor for the city of Chattanooga. Husband's monthly income was $6, 204.00, and Wife's monthly income was $5, 558.00. The parties agreed that they would each keep their own pensions from their respective employers. The parties stipulated that Wife should be the primary residential parent of their two daughters. Husband testified that Wife controlled the parties' finances during the marriage and made poor financial decisions. Wife, on the other hand, alleged that Husband dissipated marital assets. Indeed, Husband took a trip to Disney World with his female friend, her two children, and the parties' children.
In January 2014, the Trial Court entered a memorandum opinion. In March 2014, the Trial Court entered its final decree incorporating its January 2014 memorandum opinion. The Trial Court stated in its memorandum opinion, in part:
The parties have dissipated much of their assets of the marriage. Though the parties have been attempting to sell the marital home, the only offer they received would result in a negative $4, 000.00 deficiency on the mortgage. Each of the parties took half of the RV debt. The marital home is valued, according to the Court, at $185, 000.00 with a $168, 000.00 mortgage. Once the divorce was filed, the Wife's sister-in-law moved into the home. Husband alleges that part of the problem that the house has not sold is that because the sister-in-law moved in the house is piled with clutter, boxes and other unseemly items which negatively affect its saleability. The house has been on the market for at least 10 months. The house was purchased for $140, 000.00 in 2006 and the parties made some $30, 000.00 in improvement to the house. Wife thinks the house is worth $177, 000.00; he says $190, 000.00.
Husband alleges that because he was deployed overseas for much of their marriage, Wife had control of all the income in the home. Husband basically states that Wife was a spendthrift during the marriage.
There is no doubt that since returning to the states, Husband has dissipated some assets, including nearly $3, 000.00 for pearls, a motorcycle, a Disney trip, which costs over $6, 000.00. He took a loan against his 401k of some $13, 500.00. He has also had to pay $8, 200.00 in attorneys fees so far. The Court specifically finds that though Husband made many withdrawals from joint funds, Wife was actually the "captain of the ship" during the time he was deployed as to the funds of both parties and she ran up substantial debts during this time.
Husband's income is $6, 204.00 per month and Wife's is approximately the same at $5, 558.00 per month. The Wife also receives $500.00 in rental income each month. Husband says the $13, 500.00 he withdrew from the 401k did not all go to him but that over $8, 000.00 of that he sent to Wife.
From all of which the Court finds as follows: Value of the house is $185, 000.00 according to the Court subtracting the mortgage of $167, 000.00, the Court finds that there is an equity of $18, 000.00. The Court finds that the Husband should be awarded $6, 000.00 in equity and he will quitclaim the home to the Wife. The Court bases the equity
determination upon Wife's spending while she was in charge of the parties' money while Husband was overseas, and Husband's dissipation of some of the assets of the marriage once he returned home.
The Trial Court awarded $53, 947 in marital assets to Wife, and $53, 216 to Husband. The Trial Court assigned $31, 709 in marital liabilities to Wife, and $17, 041 to Husband. Wife was designated primary residential parent of the parties' two children. In its final decree, the Trial Court stated as follows, in part:
4. The Defendant is awarded the marital home subject to her payment of $6, 000.00 to the Plaintiff for his share of the marital equity therein. Plaintiff will quitclaim the ...