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Treadwell v. Lamb

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 10, 2017

JAMIE TREADWELL
v.
GARY THOMAS LAMB

          Session January 19, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Franklin County No. 18018CV Thomas W. Graham, Judge

         This appeal involves the financial aspects of a divorce, which ended a twelve-year marriage. The trial court granted both parties a divorce, divided the marital estate, and awarded Wife rehabilitative alimony for twenty-four months, provided she actively pursued a teaching degree at Middle Tennessee State University. Wife filed a motion to alter or amend the award of alimony to remove the education and vocation requirements. The trial court denied the motion. Wife filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 seeking relief from the trial court's order dividing the marital estate due to Husband's alleged fraudulent withdrawals from the parties' marital stock account. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Wife takes issue with the educational and vocational requirements the trial court placed on the spousal support award and with the trial court's division of the marital estate. She also appeals the trial court's denial of her Rule 60.02 motion. We affirm the trial court's judgment in all respects.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Cynthia A. Cheatham, Manchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jamie Treadwell.

          William A. Lockhart, Tullahoma, Tennessee, for the appellee, Gary Thomas Lamb.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and W. Neal McBrayer, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Jamie Treadwell Lamb ("Wife") and Gary Thomas Lamb ("Husband") married on September 12, 1998. One child was born of the marriage.[1]

         Husband had a bachelor's degree in computer science and worked as a software engineer throughout the marriage. Wife had two years of college in pursuit of an education degree. During the early years of the marriage, Wife first worked for a medical equipment company and then worked in real estate after obtaining her real estate license. She eventually stopped working when the parties' son was born in December 2000. The couple acquired several real properties and operated an antique store during the course of the marriage. Husband acquired substantial assets in employer-related investment accounts.

         Husband filed for divorce on September 17, 2010, alleging inappropriate marital conduct and irreconcilable differences. Wife filed an answer followed by an amended answer and counter-complaint for divorce on the same grounds as those alleged by Husband. Wife sought alimony, attorney's fees, and an equitable division of the marital estate.

         The trial court heard the case on March 4 and March 11, 2013. The parties were unable to agree on the classification of their assets. Their disagreements primarily centered on three real properties located in Decherd, Tennessee: (1) 510 Spring Street, (2) 403 Bennett Street, and (3) 508 Spring Street. Each will be discussed further in the analysis section of this opinion. The trial court entered a final decree of divorce and permanent parenting plan on December 3, 2010. An amended final decree of divorce was entered on December 10, 2010. In the amended final decree, the trial court awarded a divorce to both parties, established custody, ordered the sale of personal property and real property, divided the marital estate equally between the parties, and awarded Wife spousal support in the amount of $2, 444 for twenty-four months, provided she pursued an education degree from Middle Tennessee State University. Additionally, the trial court found three assets to be Husband's separate property: (1) Jacobs/Vanguard Investment Account, (2) 510 Spring Street, and (3) 403 Bennett Street.

         Wife filed a motion asking the trial court to alter or amend the alimony award by removing the vocational and educational requirements because she no longer wished to become a teacher. The trial court denied the motion to alter or amend the alimony award. Wife then filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 motion alleging that Husband fraudulently removed funds from a marital stock account. The trial court denied the Rule 60.02 motion, and Wife appealed.

         Wife raises three issues on appeal. First, she contends that the trial court abused its discretion by placing educational and vocational conditions on the spousal support award. Second, she contends that the trial court erred in classifying certain pieces of real property as Husband's separate property. Lastly, she argues that the trial court erred in denying her Rule 60.02 motion. We shall address each issue in turn.

         Standard of Review

         We review a trial court's findings of fact de novo with a presumption of correctness unless the evidence preponderates otherwise. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); Church v. Church, 346 S.W.3d 474, 481 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2010). On the other hand, questions of law are reviewed de novo and accorded no presumption of correctness. Langschmidt v. Langschmidt, 81 S.W.3d 741, 744-45 (Tenn. 2002).

         Analysis

         (1)

         Spousal Support Award

         A. Rehabilitative Alimony

         There are no bright-line rules for trial courts to follow when making spousal support decisions. Owens v. Owens, 241 S.W.3d 478, 493 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2007) (citing Manis v. Manis, 49 S.W.3d 295, 304 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001)). "Trial courts have broad discretion to determine whether spousal support is needed" as well as the nature, amount, and duration of the support. Id.; see also Gorman v. Gorman, No. M2010-02620-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 5599867, at *2 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 16, 2011). A trial court's decision to award spousal support is "factually driven and involves the careful balancing of many factors." Gonsewski v. Gonsewski, 350 S.W.3d 99, 105 (Tenn. 2011). Consequently, appellate courts generally refuse to second-guess a trial court's decision unless there has been an abuse of discretion. Id. "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." Id. (citing Wright ex rel. Wright v. Wright, 337 S.W.3d 166, 176 (Tenn. 2011)). An appellate court's role is not to substitute its judgment for that of the trial court, but rather to presume that the trial court's decision is correct and to review the evidence "in the light most favorable to the decision." Wright, 337 S.W.3d at 176.

         Tennessee law recognizes four types of spousal support: 1) alimony in futuro (long-term support); 2) transitional alimony; 3) alimony in solido (lump sum alimony); and 4) rehabilitative alimony. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-121(d)(1); Gonsewski, 350 S.W.3d at 107. There is a legislative preference favoring rehabilitative spousal support over long-term support. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-121(d)(2); Owens, 241 S.W.3d at 493. Despite this legislative preference, long-term or more open-ended support may be awarded when warranted by the facts of the case. Riggs v. Riggs, 250 S.W.3d 453, 456 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2007) (citing Aaron v. Aaron, 909 S.W.2d 408, 410 (Tenn. 1995)). The purpose of rehabilitative support is to facilitate the disadvantaged spouse in obtaining additional job skills, education, or training so that he or she will become more self-sufficient. Kinard v. Kinard, 986 S.W.2d 220, 234 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998). By contrast, the purpose of long-term spousal support is to "provide support to a disadvantaged spouse who is unable to achieve some degree of self-sufficiency." Id.

         In determining whether to award spousal support, and in determining the nature, amount, length of term, and manner of payment, courts consider the following factors:

(1) The relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and financial resources of each party, including, income from pension, profit sharing or retirement plans and all other sources;
(2) The relative education and training of each party, the ability and opportunity of each party to secure such education and training, and the necessity of a party to secure further education and training to improve such party's earnings capacity to a reasonable level;
(3) The duration of the marriage;
(4) The age and mental condition of each party;
(5) The physical condition of each party, including, but not limited to, physical disability or incapacity due to a chronic debilitating disease;
(6) The extent to which it would be undesirable for a party to seek employment outside the home, because such party will be custodian of a minor child of the marriage;
(7) The separate assets of each party, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
(8) The provisions made with regard to the marital property, as defined in § 36-4-121;
(9) The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
(10) The extent to which each party has made such tangible and intangible contributions to the marriage as monetary and homemaker contributions, and tangible and intangible contributions by a party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party;
(11) The relative fault of the parties, in cases where the court, in its discretion, deems it appropriate to do so; and
(12) Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities ...

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