JIMMY D. OGLE
JULIE D. DUFF
Session March 24, 2017
from the General Sessions Court for Loudon County No.
11-DV-332 Rex A. Dale, Judge
and Wife were married for approximately five and one-half
years when Husband filed a complaint for divorce. Wife filed
a counter-complaint for a divorce. The trial court granted
the parties a divorce based on stipulated grounds, classified
the parties' assets as separate or marital, and divided
the marital estate. Husband appealed, arguing that the trial
court erred in (1) divesting a revocable trust of all assets
and refusing to enforce a valid postnuptial agreement
associated with the revocable trust; (2) classifying the
increase in value of the marital residence as marital
property; (3) classifying the increase in value of
Husband's premarital IRA as marital property; and (4)
dividing the marital estate equally between the parties given
the short duration of the marriage. We affirm as modified and
deny Wife's request for an award of attorney fees on
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the General
Sessions Court Affirmed in Part, Modified in Part and
E. Nichols, Loudon, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jimmy D.
M. Hancock, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Julie D.
D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J.,
D. BENNETT, JUDGE
and Procedural Background
D. Ogle ("Husband") and Julie D. Duff
("Wife") were married on April 30, 2006. After five
and one-half years, Husband filed for divorce on the grounds
of inappropriate marital conduct and irreconcilable
differences. Wife filed an answer and counter-complaint for
divorce based on the same grounds. At the time of trial,
Husband was fifty-eight years old and Wife was forty-five
years old. Wife worked for the Lenoir City Schools as a
school teacher. Husband was a self-employed surveyor. This
was the second marriage for both parties, and Wife had two
minor children from her previous marriage.
the entirety of the marriage, the parties maintained separate
accounts for their earnings. At trial, Wife testified that
she deposited her earnings into her separate bank account.
Husband identified six separate bank accounts he used during
the marriage: (1) business account, (2) line of credit, (3)
personal checking, (4) farm account, (5) Duff-Turner account,
and (6) savings account. He testified that he usually
deposited his earnings into the business account but
occasionally deposited his earnings into the line of credit
account. During the marriage, Wife wrote Husband several
checks from her separate account to pay for utilities and
other household expenses. After Husband received these
checks, he would deposit the funds into one of his several
accounts and often transferred the money between the various
time of the marriage, Husband held three individual
retirement accounts ("IRAs"): (1) Fidelity account
("Fidelity Primary IRA") with a value of $118,
412.39, (2) State Farm account ending in -3452 with a value
of $3, 373.75, and (3) State Farm account ending in -3833
with a value of $4, 568.42. On August 22, 2012, Husband
rolled the entire $4, 011.60 balance of the State Farm
account ending in -3452 into the Fidelity Primary IRA
account. The Fidelity Primary IRA account was valued at $181,
628.32 at the time of divorce.
to the marriage, Husband owned a lakeside residence referred
to as "the Tanasi Shores property." Early in the
marriage, Husband purchased a 50-acre lot and a separate 5.5
acre lot in White County. On July 14, 2009, Husband created
the Jimmy D. Ogle Revocable Trust ("Trust") as both
settlor and trustee. Husband transferred the Tanasi Shores
and White County properties into the Trust. Wife signed
warranty deeds for these properties whereby she conveyed all
marital interest she had in the properties to Husband as
trustee of the Trust. In the Trust, Husband designated Wife
and her children as beneficiaries of the Trust and named Wife
as successor trustee. Contemporaneously with creation of the
Trust, Husband executed a Last Will and Testament that
directed that all other assets be placed in the Trust upon
his death. After creation of the Trust, Husband, as trustee,
purchased what is referred to as the Duff-Turner property.
The trust agreement contains no provision regarding
Wife's marital interest in property acquired following
creation of the Trust.
17, 2012, Husband filed a motion requesting that the trial
court determine what effect the Trust had on the
classification of marital property. Husband argued that the
Trust was created pursuant to a postnuptial agreement between
the parties. The trial court found there was not sufficient
mutual assent between Husband and Wife to form an enforceable
postnuptial agreement. The trial court, therefore, divested
the Trust of titles to all properties transferred into the
Trust and revested the titles in the names of the parties as
they existed prior to creation of the Trust. The trial court
entered an order and judgment on November 3, 2014 granting
the parties a divorce on stipulated grounds pursuant to Tenn.
Code Ann. § 36-4-129 and reserved the issue of dividing the
marital estate. Following trial on the issue of property
division, the trial court entered a final order on June 1,
2016 dividing the marital estate into equal shares between
has now perfected this appeal and raises the following
issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in divesting the
Trust of all assets and refusing to enforce the valid
postnuptial agreement; (2) whether the trial court erred in
classifying the increase in value of Husband's separate
property on Lot 28 Tanasi Shores and the increase in value of
the Fidelity Primary IRA as marital property; and (3) whether
the trial court erred in dividing the marital estate into
equal shares in light of the short duration of the marriage.
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). A trial
court's conclusions of law are reviewed de novo with no
presumption of correctness. Whaley v. Perkins, 197
S.W.3d 665, 670 (Tenn. 2006). Because a trial court is in a
position to observe a witness's demeanor as he or she
testifies, a trial court is "accorded significant
deference in resolving factual disputes when the credibility
of the witnesses is of paramount importance." Davis
v. Davis, 223 S.W.3d 233, 238 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006)
(citing Wells v. Tenn. Bd. of Regents, 9 S.W.3d 779,
783 (Tenn. 1999)). We will not re-evaluate a trial
court's credibility determinations "'absent
clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.'"
Id. (quoting Wells, 9 S.W.3d at 783).
D. Ogle Revocable Trust
first takes issue with the trial court divesting the Trust of
all assets and revesting titles to those assets in the names
of the parties as they existed prior to creation of the
Trust. Husband argues that the trust documents and
accompanying warranty deeds constitute a valid postnuptial
agreement and the trial court erred by refusing to evaluate
these documents in light of the factors set forth in Tenn.
Code Ann. § 36-3-501.
or prospective spouses may enter into various types of
agreements, including antenuptial agreements, reconciliation
agreements, and postnuptial agreements. Bratton v.
Bratton, 136 S.W.3d 595, 599 (Tenn. 2004). Prospective
spouses execute antenuptial agreements "in contemplation
of marriage, " whereas reconciliation agreements and
postnuptial agreements are entered into by spouses after
marriage. Id. Spouses execute reconciliation
agreements after a separation or the filing of a complaint
for divorce. See Atkins v. Atkins, 105 S.W.3d 591,
594 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002) (stating that "[a]
reconciliation agreement . . . is executed following a
separation during a marriage."); Minor v.
Minor, 863 S.W.2d 51, 53 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1993)
(involving a husband and wife who executed a reconciliation
agreement after being separated and contemplating divorce);
Gilley v. Gilley, 778 S.W.2d 862, 863 (Tenn. Ct.
App. 1989) (involving a husband and wife who entered into a
reconciliation agreement after the wife filed for divorce).
Postnuptial agreements, on the other hand, "are entered
into before marital problems arise." Bratton,
136 S.W.3d at 599. Because postnuptial agreements are similar
in nature to reconciliation agreements and antenuptial
agreements, courts generally apply the same principles in
interpreting them. In re Estate of Wiseman, 889
S.W.2d 215, 217 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1994); see also
Bratton, 136 S.W.3d at 600. "That is to say,
[postnuptial agreements] should be interpreted and enforced
as any other contract." Bratton, 136 S.W.3d at
interpretation presents a question of law. Atkins,
105 S.W.3d at 594. Consequently, we review the trial
court's judgment de novo with no presumption of
correctness. Id. A tenet of contract law is that
contracts "can be express, implied, written, or
oral[.]" Thompson v. Hensley, 136 S.W.3d 925,
929-30 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003) (citing Klosterman Dev.
Corp. v. Outlaw Aircraft Sales, Inc., 102 S.W.3d 621,
635 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002)). Valid, enforceable contracts
require a meeting of the minds, adequate consideration, and
sufficient definiteness to be enforced. Ace Design Grp.,
Inc. v. Greater Christ Temple Church, Inc., No.
M2016-00089-COA-R3-CV, 2016 WL 7166408, at *7 (Tenn. Ct. App.
Dec. 8, 2016). We have explained the meeting of the minds
requirement as follows:
"Under general principles of contract law, a contract
must result from a meeting of the minds of the parties in
mutual assent to the terms." Sweeten v. Trade
Envelopes, Inc., 938 S.W.2d 383, 386 (Tenn. 1996)
(citation omitted). "[T]he meeting of the minds . . .
[is] to be determined . . . not alone from the words used,
but also the situation, acts, and the conduct of the parties,
and the attendant circumstances." [Moody Realty Co.,
Inc. v.] Huestis, 237 S.W.3d [666, 675 (Tenn.
Ct. App. 2007)]. "Courts determine mutuality of assent
by assessing the parties' manifestations according to an
objective standard." Id. at 674.
In re Estate of Josephson, No.
M2011-01792-COA-R3-CV, 2012 WL 3984613, at *2 (Tenn. Ct. App.
Sept. 11, 2012). Thus, there must be mutual assent to a
contract in order for the contracting parties to have a
meeting of the minds. See Ace Design Group, Inc.,
2016 WL 7166408, at *7. If there is insufficient mutual
assent, no contract exists. Wofford v. M.J. Edwards &
Sons Funeral Home, Inc., 490 S.W.3d 800, 810 (Tenn. Ct.
App. 2015) (citing Allstate Ins. Co. v. Tarrant, 363
S.W.3d 508, 528 (Tenn. 2012)).
trial court determined that no valid postnuptial agreement
existed in this case because the court found "there was
insufficient mutual assent between the parties" to form
an oral contract. In making its determination, the trial
court considered the transcript of an oral conversation
between the parties. At some time after the marriage, but
before executing the trust documents, Husband and Wife
discussed the creation of the Trust. Wife recorded this
conversation and introduced a transcript of the recording as
an exhibit at the hearing on Husband's motion. At the
beginning of the transcript, the parties were discussing
issues of distrust with each other and agreeing they intended
to remain married. The discussion then turned to creation of
the Trust to protect Husband's personal assets from
potential lawsuits connected to his land survey business and
to bequeath all Trust properties to Wife and her children in