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Alattiyat v. Qasqas

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

November 9, 2017


          Session September 18, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-004351-14 Robert Samual Weiss, Judge

         This is a divorce case. Appellant/Husband appeals the trial court's denial of his motion for summary judgment, his motion to vacate the pendente lite award, the division of marital property, and the award of alimony. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

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

          Adnan A. Alattiyat, pro se.

          Michael D. Snell, Marion, Arkansas, for the appellee, Faiza A. Qasqas.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Arnold B. Goldin and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.



         I. Background

         Appellee Faiza A. Qasqas ("Wife") was born in Palestine in 1961. She grew up in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates and graduated from college in 1989. Thereafter, she was licensed as a lawyer in Jordan. In 1996, she met Appellant Adnan A. Alattiyat ("Husband"). After they began dating, Wife had a new birth certificate issued in Jordan, which indicated that she was born in 1965 rather than 1961. Wife testified that Husband was aware of this new birth certificate and that she obtained it at his request to appease his family as to their age disparity because Wife is 10 years older than Husband. Husband denies that he was aware of the new birth certificate prior to the parties' marriage. The parties were married in 1997 in Ammon, Jordan, and three children were born to the marriage. Following their marriage, the parties moved to Memphis, where they entered into a lease to operate a convenience store. This venture proved unsuccessful, and, in February 2012, the parties sold their interest in the convenience store. Due to their financial difficulties, the parties lost their home in Memphis and moved to California to be near Wife's family. The parties moved back to Memphis six months later, and Husband took a job as a cashier at a convenience store. Husband ultimately contracted for and opened an Exxon "Hop In" store in Memphis. At trial, Husband testified that he borrowed the money for this endeavor from his brothers. When the business closed in 2015, Husband testified that the proceeds from the sale of the business were used to repay his brothers.

         The parties separated in August 2014, following an altercation where police were called. On August 21, 2014, Wife filed for an order of protection against Husband. On October 15, 2014, Husband filed a complaint for divorce, wherein he alleged the grounds of inappropriate marital conduct, irreconcilable differences, and abandonment. Wife filed an answer and counter-complaint for divorce on November 6, 2014. A pendente lite hearing was held on December 17, 2014, at which Wife testified that she was not working and had no income. Husband obtained counsel after the pendente lite hearing and appealed the divorce referee's ruling to the circuit court. By order of February 27, 2015, temporary support based on Wife having no income and Husband having a monthly income of $3, 143.72 was set as follows: (1) Wife was awarded $500 per month in transitional alimony; (2) Husband was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $933 per month; (3) Husband was ordered to pay Wife's attorney fees in the amount of $3, 447.00. The parties agreed to a temporary parenting plan, which was entered on January 22, 2015.

         On February 19, 2015, Husband's attorney filed a motion to withdraw. On February 26, 2015, Wife was arrested by the Shelby County Sheriff and charged with aggravated perjury based on allegations made by Husband regarding Wife's testimony at the hearing before the divorce referee. These charges were later dismissed, nolle prosequi, without costs. The day after Wife's arrest, the trial court entered an order allowing Husband's attorney to withdraw. Although Husband's motion appealing the pendente lite order was pending, on March 15, 2015, Husband filed a motion to vacate judgment, which he asserted was obtained by perjury. Husband subsequently filed two motions for recusal, alleging bias on the part of Shelby County Circuit Court Judge James Russell, who was originally assigned to the case. These motions were ultimately denied. However, on April 27, 2015, Judge Russell transferred the case to another division of circuit court.

         On July 6, 2015, three days before trial, Husband filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the marriage was obtained by fraud and requesting that the marriage be annulled. Husband's allegations were based on the fact that Wife's Jordanian birth certificate listed her year of birth as 1965 rather than 1961. The case proceeded to trial on July 9, 2015. On April 15, 2016, the trial court entered a final decree of divorce. The trial court denied Husband's motion for summary judgment and declared the parties divorced pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-129. The trial court modified the pendente lite order, based on its finding that Wife's testimony, at the hearing before the divorce referee, was inconsistent with her testimony at trial. Specifically, Wife testified during the hearing before the divorce referee that she had no income; however, during the trial, Wife testified that she received financial support from the Memphis Islamic Center and income from her current employer, All Tennessee Care Givers, LLC. The trial court modified the child support worksheet to reflect Wife's gross monthly income of $1, 690.26. At the time of trial, Husband testified that he was unemployed; however, the trial court found that Husband was willfully underemployed and imputed income of $2, 940.00 per month. The trial court ordered that each party would retain the personal property currently in his or her possession and that each would be responsible for his or her debts. Husband was ordered to pay Wife rehabilitative alimony of $500 per month for 12 months and alimony in solido of $3, 000. The trial court adopted the parties' temporary parenting plan but reduced Husband's child support obligation to $589.00 per month.

         On April 29, 2016, Husband filed a notice of appeal. On May 11, 2016, he filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the judgment pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59. The motion was heard on May 20, 2016, and was denied by order of May 26, 2016. Although the trial court denied Husband's Rule 59 motion, the May 26, 2017 order included additional findings of fact. Husband appeals.

         II. Issues

         Appellant raises five issues for review, which we restate as follows:

1. Whether the trial court erred in entering a final judgment without including written findings of fact and conclusions of law, as required by Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01?
2. Whether the trial court erred in denying Appellant's motion for summary judgment?
3. Whether the trial court erred in denying Appellant's motion to vacate judgment obtained by perjury, and instead granting Appellant's motion appealing ...

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