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Jackson v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

November 4, 2016

PAUL THOMAS JACKSON
v.
SUSAN DENISE JACKSON

          August 17, 2016 Session

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Crockett County No. 9813 George R. Ellis, Chancellor

          Mary Jo Middlebrooks, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Susan Denise Jackson.

          James S. Haywood, Jr., Brownsville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Paul Thomas Jackson.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Kenny Armstrong, J. and David R. Farmer, Special Judge, joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN W. McCLARTY, JUDGE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Paul Thomas Jackson ("Husband") and Susan Denise Jackson ("Wife") were married in July 1993. This was Husband's third marriage and Wife's second. No children were born of the marriage; however, each party had children from prior marriages who have since attained the age of majority. Wife maintained employment for the majority of the marriage and was well-educated in music, having received a Bachelor's degree in 1979 and a Master's degree in 1999. Husband completed three years of college and was employed by the Air Force for approximately 20 years prior to the marriage. Thereafter, he operated a photography business.

          After approximately 21 years of marriage, Husband filed a complaint for divorce, alleging irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct as statutory grounds in support of his complaint. Wife filed a counter-complaint for divorce, alleging the same grounds. At the time of the hearing, Husband was 76 years old, while Wife was 57 years old. Husband and Wife (collectively "the Parties") each suffered from various ailments that affected their ability to work.

         As pertinent to this appeal, Husband testified that he underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer. He alleged that he was no longer able to engage in sexual activity as a result of the surgery. He conceded that his complication as a result of the surgery affected the marriage and that in October 2012, Wife left the marital residence. He stated that he gave her $3, 000 per month for expenses, including rent because she did not have an income at the time. He alleged that she eventually moved back into the marital residence because the rental home was "too little for her."

         Husband testified that he operated a food photography business and reported approximately $55, 000 in business income for the year 2014, in addition to military disability of $3, 356.90 per month, military retirement income of $1, 949.13 per month, and social security income of $1, 750 per month, for a total of approximately $7, 056 per month. He questioned how long he would be physically able to continue his work in the photography business. He stated that he and Wife maintained separate checking accounts throughout the marriage. He agreed that Wife had access to his accounts while he had access to at least one of her accounts. He claimed that he paid the balance on her credit cards once per year. He conceded that he removed approximately $28, 000 from one checking account and placed the money into a safe. He explained that he used the account to save money throughout the year to pay taxes. He removed the money when he discovered that Wife was depleting the account. He claimed that she also withdrew large sums of money from other accounts without his permission.

         While Wife conceded that Husband never engaged in an extramarital affair and he denied the same, the majority of the testimony presented at the hearing related to his relationship with several women, specifically, Stephanie Raines, Stephanie Rhodes, Paige Knapp, and Helen Conley. Wife claimed that he spent an inordinate amount of time with these women and gifted them with certain items and money. Husband denied that the relationships were inappropriate and explained that his business required his frequent interaction with women, who primarily occupied the field of food photography. He also volunteered his time as a softball pitching coach for Ms. Knapp's daughter and as a photographer for Mrs. Conley's husband.

         Husband further explained that he employed Mrs. Rhodes, who often accompanied him on his business trips as part of her employment. He agreed that he paid for their meals at restaurants while out of town. Relative to Mrs. Conley, he explained that he volunteered to run her husband's business, Tennessee Safari Park, while her husband was incarcerated. [1] He agreed that he spent approximately $1, 000 on items for the Park. He also agreed that Mrs. Conley asked him to house an oil painting for her and that she also left various items for him to display on his bookshelf.

         Relative to Ms. Knapp, he explained that he attended her daughter's softball games on a regular basis and that he and Ms. Knapp became friends. He agreed that he maintained constant contact with Ms. Knapp from 2006 through 2009 by email or text messages, that he even kept a picture of her on his computer, and that he sent her daughter an iPod that Wife had gifted him. He conceded that Wife moved out of the marital residence after she discovered that he also gave Ms. Knapp $500 in September 2012. He conceded that he filed the complaint for divorce after his attempt at reconciliation proved fruitless. He claimed that Wife attended one counseling session before refusing to participate further. He continued to attend the sessions without her.

         Wife testified that Husband's relationship with the various women interfered with their marriage and that she eventually moved out of their shared bedroom into another room in the house because "thing were just really uncomfortable." She stated that she found the email regarding the $500 gift six months later, on September 24, 2012. She recalled leaving the house that night and refusing Husband's and Ms. Knapp's attempts to communicate with her. She stayed with relatives for a few weeks before she returned and agreed to attend counseling. She admitted that she only attended one session but explained that Husband lied to the counselor. She finally moved out of the marital residence in October 2012 after she discovered Husband's continued communications with Ms. Knapp. She asserted that she attempted to reconcile with Husband and met with him on occasion but that she later discovered Mrs. Conley's painting and other items in the marital residence. She noted that Mrs. Conley had also painted a room in the marital residence to match the painting.[2] She recalled that Husband told her the painting was in exchange for his work at the Park.

         Wife testified that she first suspected Husband had an inappropriate relationship with Ms. Knapp in 2006 or 2007. She discovered emails and messages between them and confronted Husband, who claimed that his communications were limited to issues pertaining to his volunteer coaching. She asserted that upon further discovery, she found that he referred to Ms. Knapp as "sweet pea" and signed his emails "ILY", meaning "I love you." She also discovered a picture of her on his computer. She stated that after she confronted him again, he agreed that he had probably become too familiar with Ms. Knapp and promised that he would "back off with his relationship with her." She claimed that he continued the relationship, despite his promise to do otherwise.

         Wife claimed that Husband also continued to contact another one of his assistants, Stephanie Raines, after she no longer worked for him. She asserted that Mrs. Raines eventually ended the relationship after her husband complained. She claimed that Mrs. Raines's husband also told him to cease communication with his wife.

         Wife asserted that Husband's relationship with Mrs. Conley began in May 2009. She stated that he accompanied Mrs. Conley to the prison to visit her husband on a weekly basis.

         Relative to finances, Wife testified that she could no longer work due to her various ailments, including her diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. She admitted that she cared for her grandchildren during the day but explained that she slept while they slept and that her son supplied everything needed for their care. She stated that she receives disability income in the amount of $1, 586 per month but that she could not access her retirement income until she reached the age of 67.5 years. She claimed that she did not have individual savings because she paid the day-to-day bills out of her salary during the marriage, while Husband saved his income for their eventual retirement. She identified an affidavit of her income and expenses, which reflected expenses of $4, 296 per month. Her expense statement did not include her car payment of $450 per month, homeowner's ...


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