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Henson v. Henson

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

April 24, 2017

TRINA A. HENSON
v.
CHRIS ROBERT HENSON

          Session March 21, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Robertson County No. 74CC1-2015-CV-58 Ross H. Hicks, Judge.

         This is an appeal from a final decree of divorce. The trial court declared the parties divorced, divided the marital property and marital debt, and ordered Husband to pay rehabilitative alimony of $2, 500.00 per month for three years, and an award of $20, 000.00 for attorney's fees, as alimony in solido. On appeal, Husband contends that the trial court erred in: (1) its division of the marital debt; (2) its award of rehabilitative alimony; and (3) its award of attorney's fees. Wife requests attorney's fees incurred in defending this appeal. We affirm the trial court's judgment and remand for determination of Wife's attorney's fees on appeal.

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

          Jonathan A. Garner, Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellant, Chris Robert Henson.

          Charlotte Ann Fleming, Emily Cannon Green, and Brandi Lynn McPeek Jones, Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellee, Trina A. Henson.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE

         I. Background

         Appellant Chris Robert Henson ("Husband") and Appellee Trina A. Henson ("Wife") were married in June of 2006. No children were born to the marriage. Husband and Wife moved frequently during their relationship. In February 2006, Wife moved to Germany to join Husband, who was stationed there with the Army. In June 2006, the couple moved to Alabama; in 2009, the couple relocated to Tennessee. In November 2012, Husband and Wife moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for Husband's employment as a helicopter pilot. The couple maintained a marital residence in Tennessee, and Wife returned to Tennessee to live in May 2014. In November 2014, Husband began a relationship with a woman in Dubai. Wife discovered Husband's affair in January 2015, while he was visiting the marital residence, and the couple separated after a confrontation.

         Husband has a college degree, and Wife has a high school diploma. During the parties' nine-year marriage, Husband retired from the military in 2012 then obtained employment with private security companies as a helicopter pilot. Prior to the marriage, Wife was employed as a medical referral coordinator in Florida. She testified that she quit her job and moved to Europe after her engagement to Husband. In 2009, Wife obtained a medical transcription certificate and worked as a medical transcriptionist for one month, after which Husband requested that she quit to assist him in a decorative concrete business. Sometime in 2008 or 2009, Wife's medical transcription certification expired. Husband subsequently sold the concrete business and purchased a gas station. Wife assisted in selling the gas station six months later. At the time of trial, Husband worked as a Black Hawk helicopter instructor pilot for Global Aerospace Logistics ("GAL") in Dubai, making $16, 409.17 per month. Husband also testified that he has additional monthly income of: (1) $2, 406.00 in military retirement, (2) $917.13 in disability, [1] and (3) $1, 800.00 in rental income, for a total of $21, 631.88 per month. Wife was not employed at the time of trial, but she testified that she cleaned houses with her sister for several months, making approximately $500.00 per month, until she suffered a knee injury in September 2015. Wife stated that she had applied for several jobs but had not received any offers.

         On January 29, 2015, Wife filed a complaint for divorce against Husband in the Circuit Court for Robertson County ("trial court"). As grounds, Wife alleged inappropriate marital conduct and irreconcilable differences, which made cohabitation unsafe and improper. On February 19, 2015, Mr. Henson filed an answer and counter-complaint for divorce. In his answer, Mr. Henson admitted the parties' irreconcilable differences but denied that cohabitation was "unsafe"; Mr. Henson also denied inappropriate marital conduct on his part. In his counter-complaint for divorce, Husband alleged that Wife had committed inappropriate marital conduct so as to render cohabitation improper. On March 3, 2015, Wife filed an answer to the counter-complaint, denying any inappropriate marital conduct on her part.

         On March 24, 2015, Wife filed a motion for pendente lite support, arguing that, in the course of the parties' marriage, Husband paid for Wife's living expenses, but after filing for divorce, Husband ceased support except for mortgage payments and homeowner's insurance. Wife stated that, since December 2014, she had incurred $7, 500.00 in credit card debt for household and living expenses, and Husband's monthly income was $14, 500.00. On May 6, 2015, Husband filed a response to Wife's motion, alleging that he had been unemployed since December 2014 and was seeking work as an independent contractor. On May 28, 2015, the trial court ordered pendente lite support in the amount of $3, 000.00 per month, beginning with an immediate payment for the month of May. On June 9, 2015, Wife filed a motion for contempt, stating that Husband had failed to pay the court-ordered support. On August 5, 2015, the trial court heard the motion for contempt and found that Husband had not made the May payment to Wife and that subsequent payments were late. Based on Husband's income from his work for GAL, the trial court also found that Husband's "statements that he cannot afford to pay the Wife the sum of $3, 000.00 per month [are] simply not true"; therefore, the trial court found Husband in willful contempt. The trial court ordered Husband to pay the May support immediately and to continue making monthly payments. The trial court also awarded Wife attorney's fees of $1, 125.00 for the contempt motion.

         On December 29, 2015, Wife filed a second motion for contempt, arguing that Husband removed Wife as the beneficiary of his life insurance and stopped payment for Wife's life insurance policy in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-4-106(d)(2). On February 2, 2016, the trial court heard Wife's motion for contempt; on the same day, the trial court held the divorce hearing. On February 4, 2016, the trial court dismissed Wife's motion for contempt but ordered Husband to maintain Wife as the sole beneficiary on his life insurance policy. On May 11, 2016, the trial court issued its final decree of divorce, finding that both parties had committed inappropriate marital conduct.

         The parties were each awarded half of the value of the marital residence, which was to be sold. The trial court allowed Wife to continue residing in the marital residence until it sold. The trial court awarded Wife the personal property in the marital residence. Each party was awarded the automobile in his or her respective possession; because Husband was also awarded an additional vehicle, the trial court ordered that Husband pay Wife $6, 000.00 for the excess equity.

         The trial court also ordered Husband to: (1) pay Wife rehabilitative alimony of $2, 500.00 each month for three years; (2) pay the mortgage on the marital residence until it sold; and (3) pay Wife's credit card debt of $18, 162.04 for household and living expenses incurred during the litigation. The trial court assessed costs against Husband and further found "that the Wife is entitled to an award for attorney's fees of $20, 000.00 due to Husband's misrepresentation of his income at the hearing on May 13, 2015, and his superior economic position relative to the Wife."

         On May 18, 2016, Husband filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59 motion to alter or amend the judgment. In his motion, Husband argued that the trial court's order overstated his annual income and that the trial court made a duplicative award because Wife's attorney's fees were charged to her credit cards, and that the majority of the debt was assigned to Husband. On May 24, 2016, Wife filed a response to Husband's motion, alleging that the trial court underestimated Husband's income. Wife also argued that the award of attorney's fees was not duplicative because her attorney's fees totaled $26, 482.54, which exceeded the fees assessed to Husband. On July 5, 2016, the trial court found that Husband's income was misstated in the divorce decree and amended its judgment to reflect Husband's monthly income of $16, 409.17 from GAL. Additionally, the trial court determined that the credit card award and attorney's fees award were not duplicative and held:

The Court further finds that Mr. Henson misrepresented his actual income during the case and therefore the award of attorney's fees is equitable and should be paid in essence as a sanction. Therefore, the Motion to Alter or Amend as to the attorney's fees is denied.

         Husband appeals.

         II. ...


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