Session: April 18, 2017
from the Chancery Court for Roane County No. 2015-5 Frank V.
Williams, III, Chancellor
appeal arises from a divorce. Rhonda Sue Griffis Grubb
("Wife") filed for divorce against husband James
Wesley Grubb ("Husband") in the Chancery Court for
Roane County ("the Trial Court"). Trial in this
matter was bifurcated. The validity of the parties'
antenuptial agreement ("the Agreement") was tried
first. The Trial Court found that the provision in the
Agreement purporting to cap Wife's alimony was
unenforceable but otherwise upheld the Agreement. Later,
trial was conducted on the remaining issues in the case.
Citing her adultery and a clause in the Agreement, the Trial
Court declined to grant Wife alimony. However, the Trial
Court awarded Wife a substantial portion of the marital
estate. The Trial Court also ruled upon child support,
parenting time, and education for the parties' two
daughters. Husband appealed to this Court raising numerous
issues. Wife raised additional issues of her own. We find and
hold that Husband failed to carry his burden as to the
validity of the Agreement. As to the second stage of this
bifurcated matter, we find that the Trial Court's final
judgment is devoid of factual findings to such a degree that
we cannot effectively review the remaining issues in this
case. We reverse as to the validity of the Agreement. We
vacate and remand for further proceedings as necessary and
for entry of a new final judgment containing detailed factual
findings and conclusions of law as to the remaining issues.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Reversed, in Part, and Vacated, in Part; Case Remanded
Scott Taylor and Margo J. Maxwell, Knoxville, Tennessee, for
the appellant, James Wesley Grubb.
Browder G. Williams and Julianna L. Mason, Kingston,
Tennessee, for the appellee, Rhonda Sue Griffis Grubb.
Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S. and Thomas R. Frierson,
II, J., joined.
MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE.
and Wife married in 2002. There was a significant gap in the
parties' ages as well as their educational, employment,
and business backgrounds. Wife was born in 1982. Husband is
22 years older than Wife. Wife earned her G.E.D. in 2000.
Husband graduated from college in 1985. Husband worked in his
rent-to-own business and sold furniture, electronics and
appliances. Husband met Wife around 2000 when Husband took
his clothes to the dry cleaners where Wife worked. Husband
and Wife began a relationship. Wife soon thereafter moved in
with Husband and stopped working at the dry cleaners. Husband
provided for them both, and Wife soon became financially
dependent on Husband. Husband proposed to Wife in 2001.
Husband, who had been married once before, desired an
antenuptial agreement with Wife.
August 2002, Husband took Wife to his family lawyer to sign
the Agreement. This was two days before the couple was to go
on vacation and be married. The accounts of this meeting are
in contention. Wife states that she did not fully understand
what she was signing. Wife was informed that the Attorney,
Chris Trew, was not her attorney and that she could get
independent legal advice if she wished to do so, something
she never did. Wife signed the Agreement, and the couple
shortly thereafter left on their vacation as planned and got
Agreement purported to safeguard Husband's business
interests and contains the following relevant provisions:
WHEREAS, the parties desire that all property now owned by
each of them, and any increase or appreciation in the value
of such property, plus any additions derived with income
therefrom or any replacement thereof, shall be free from any
claim of the other that may arise by reason of their
1. Property to be Separately Owned. After the
solemnization of the marriage between the parties hereto,
each of them shall separately retain individual ownership and
all rights in and to his or her own real and/or personal
properties, now owned, or hereafter acquired as a replacement
of their presently owned separate property, and any increase
or appreciation in the value of such separate property during
the marriage, all of which is herein referred to as
The "separate property" presently owned by each of
the parties is as set forth herein, to-wit:
a) The presently owned "separate property" of James
Wesley Grubb consists of the assets described in Exhibit
"A", attached hereto, which Exhibit "A"
has been dated and signed by both parties; and
b) The presently owned "separate property" of
Rhonda Sue Griffis consists of the assets described in
Exhibit "B", attached hereto, which Exhibit
"B" has been dated and signed by both parties.
3. Waiver upon Dissolution of Marriage. In the event
of the dissolution of the marriage by divorce, annulment or
otherwise, or in the event of a separation of the parties
pursuant to a judicial decree of separation or otherwise,
except to the extent otherwise specifically provided for
a) Neither party will make a claim arising out of or based
upon their marriage or dissolution of their marriage to any
part of the real and/or personal property and/or estate, or
any increase in the value thereof, classified as the separate
property herein, of the other party;
b) Each party hereby waives and relinquishes any claim such
party may have arising from the marriage and/or from any such
dissolution of the marriage against the real and/or personal
property and/or estate, or any increase in the value thereof,
classified as the separate property herein, of the other
c)All of the separate property, or any increase in the value
of such separate property, of each party shall be retained by
the party whose separate property it is, and shall not be
deemed marital property under Tennessee law for any purpose.
d) Neither party will be responsible for any of the personal
debts of the other party;
e) Neither party shall be entitled to claim or receive
alimony of any nature or kind from the other party except as
The rights waived hereby and the provisions hereof are
intended to be effective under the laws of the State of
Tennessee where the parties now reside and are intended to
cover any such similar rights of a divorced spouse under the
laws of any other state in which the parties may hereafter
In the event the parties have been married for greater than
five (5) years prior to the filing of a Complaint for
Divorce, James Wesley Grubb shall pay to Rhonda Sue Griffis
the sum of One Hundred Thousand Dollars and 00/100
($100, 000.00) as alimony in solido for her use in purchasing
a residence. This sum is not subject to modification for any
reason. This sum shall be due within ninety (90) days of the
entry of any final Decree of Divorce and until payment
thereof, Rhonda Sue Griffis, shall have the right to reside
in the Kingston, Roane County, Tennessee, residence. Upon
payment of this sum, she shall vacate the residence within
sixty (60) days.
and Wife had two children, both daughters, over the course of
their marriage. Wife served as homemaker while Husband
continued working in his business. The daughters attended
private school. Over time, problems developed in the
marriage. Wife would testify to arguments the couple had over
the upbringing of their daughters and that Husband was very
distant from Wife. Wife filed for divorce in January 2015.
in this case was bifurcated. First, at an October 2015
hearing, the issue of the validity of the Agreement was
tried. Husband, Wife, and Howard Chris Trew
("Trew"), the attorney who drafted the Agreement,
had drafted antenuptial agreements throughout the course of
his 30-plus year legal career. Trew had known and worked with
Husband's family for some time. In July 2002, Trew sent
Husband a form version of an antenuptial agreement for him to
review. Husband's accountant faxed Trew Husband's
financial statement. Trew then prepared a draft agreement
before finalizing the Agreement. The Agreement was executed
at Trew's office on August 26, 2002. Husband made the
appointment. Trew never before had met Wife. Trew met with
Wife one-on-one for at least 30 minutes to go over the
Agreement. Trew acknowledged Wife's youth and took this
into account in how he discussed the Agreement with her. Trew
testified: "I knew there was a disparity in wealth,
obviously, and rather than -- he may have thought when he
first wanted this that what's mine is mine and that's
it, but I told him that he needed to provide some things for
her, such as housing, and provide her with some alimony,
depending on the length of the marriage." Trew stated
that he believed the Agreement was fair to Wife. Regarding
whether Wife knew she could seek her own counsel, Trew
testified: "I would have told her in this meeting that
she had a right to seek legal counsel, yes, sir. And I
certainly would have told her, and she knew that anyway, that
I was representing [Husband]. Again, I had never met this
young lady before that day." Trew, when asked about
Wife's demeanor at the meeting, testified: "I am
very comfortable in stating under oath today, that if that
young lady was crying or emotional during my conference with
her, I would have called [Husband] in to say, 'Look,
I'm sorry, she's upset today. I don't know what
has happened in the past, what's on her mind, but
we're not signing this document today. She needs to go
out and seek an attorney' . . . I would have never let
this young lady sign this agreement if she was crying . . .
." Trew stated that he went over the worth of
Husband's assets with Wife. On cross-examination, Trew
stated: "My job was to prepare a document that protected
his interests, but to also prepare a document that I thought
would be enforceable." Trew could not recall whether he
knew that Husband and Wife were leaving in two days for
vacation to get married. Trew stated that he did not believe
it would have been appropriate to tell Wife she could bargain
with Husband over the Agreement, stating: "There's a
fine line between trying to go over something with somebody
and giving them advice, and you don't want to cross that
age 55, testified. Husband had graduated college with a
degree in zoology in 1985. Husband stated: "After I
graduated UT, I went into business in Rockwood with my
brother, in the Rent To Own business." When Husband
first met Wife at the dry cleaners, Husband was 40 and Wife
was 18. In late 2001, Husband proposed to Wife. Husband
testified that Wife knew and understood he wanted an
antenuptial agreement. Husband paid for everything after Wife
moved in with him. Husband stated that he had discussions
with Wife during their engagement about an antenuptial
agreement and possibly paying for her to get her own attorney
to counsel her. Husband testified as follows:
Q. All right. And there's a reference, you're a man
of a list -- you had a list you were trying to get done
before you left town?
A. Yes. Yes, I did.
Q. And had you shared that list with your wife?
Q. And on that list was going to Chris Trew's Office?
Q. To execute the prenuptial agreement?
Q. Now, at this time, even at this date here, you've now
got the final rendition, you've got the appointment on
August the 26th, had you had a conversation with her during
those days we've got this agreement, of course, it says
it in here, about her getting an attorney and her -- you
paying for it?
A. Most definitely we had that conversation. I wanted her to
feel comfortable and not to worry about the expense of it to
go get her own attorney and her own counsel.
Q. All right. And the day that you went to Chris' office,
do you remember what time of day it was?
A. I would guess it was morning when we went to Chris'
Q. Did you all go together?
A. We did.
Q. And what was her demeanor going to the office?
A. I mean we were elated, we were excited to be getting
Q. Was she in any way emotional, crying, anything of that
Q. Was she complaining about having to go sign a prenuptial
A. No. No, sir.
Q. And what happened when you got to Chris Trew's office?
A. When we got to Chris Trew's office, Chris came out
into the lobby where we were at, and I very briefly
chit-chat, "How are you doing? Doing good." And he
said, "Jim, if you will, just remain here, I want to
Rhonda alone." And then they exited and went to his, I
assume his conference room, that's where they went, was
to his conference room.
Q. And how long did he meet with her in his conference room?
A. I would say, and I remember this because I expressed it to
Rhonda, you know, we were -- "You know, you guys were
there -- back in there 45 minutes or an hour." It was a
long wait sitting out there. I didn't expect that to be
that long. But I sat out in his lobby by myself and I
remember tapping my feet and -- it took a long time.
Q. And when you say you asked Rhonda "what happened back
there, what took so long, " what was her remark?
A. Well, when we left, she made the comment to me that Chris
had said to her that, "Why are you signing this? Are you
going to sign this because you know it's not going to
last, you know your marriage isn't going to last?"
And I think Chris said that jokingly. She said they went over
the agreement, the prenuptial agreement.
Q. And, again, by this time, was she in tears or upset or --
A. No, no, no, we were elated, we were getting married.
Q. Ever any objection from her about signing this prenuptial
A. I'm sorry?
Q. Was there ever any objection by her --
Q. -- to signing this prenuptial ...