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Santee v. Santee

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

February 15, 2018


          Session November 14, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Sevier County No. 13-9-285 Telford E. Forgety, Jr., Chancellor

         This appeal concerns divorce and child support matters. Robert Harvey Santee ("Husband") sued wife Stacy Lynn Santee ("Wife") for divorce in the Chancery Court for Sevier County ("the Trial Court"). After a trial, the Trial Court awarded Husband a divorce based upon Wife's inappropriate marital conduct. The Trial Court divided the marital estate, awarded Wife rehabilitative alimony, and imputed income to her for child support purposes. Wife appealed to this Court, arguing that, among other things, as a stay-at-home mother in a long-term marriage, rehabilitative alimony is insufficient. Husband argues in response that he has longstanding plans to retire. We find that the Trial Court erred in imputing income to Wife for two years of child support purposes when the Trial Court also found that Wife was capable of going to school for those two years to improve her financial situation and awarded rehabilitative alimony for Wife to do exactly that. Otherwise, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed as Modified; Case Remanded

          Keith A. Hopson, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stacy Lynn Santee.

          Andrew N. Wilson, Sevierville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Robert Harvey Santee.

          D. Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas R. Frierson, II, J.




         The parties married in 1990. Husband is a radiologist who earns around half a million dollars per year. Wife, a high school graduate, was a stay-at-home parent. Wife sold some Mary Kay products during the marriage, but she lost money doing so. Five children were born of the marriage, but only one was a minor at the time of trial. This child, Tavyn, was born in 2000. Wife acknowledged having had an adulterous relationship, which began in 2012. Husband sued for divorce in September 2013. This case was tried over the course of two days in August 2016.

         Wife testified to her very limited work history:

Q. Now, in the course of all this time of the marriage, did you ever work outside the home, or would --
A. No.
Q. -- you stay at home?
A. I stayed at home.
Q. How did you see your role and Dr. Santee's role in supporting this family and the home?
A. He is a great provider. He always made sure the kids were taken care of, there was food on the table, there was -- you know, we had vacations, everything. He -- excuse me -- he wasn't emotionally there, but he was -- he always took care of us that way. I have always volunteered at school. I've always been hands-on with my kids because I think that that's my goal. That was my -- that's my biggest accomplishment in my life, is my children and taking care of their needs and being there. And they know if they pick up the phone and say, "I need, " or "I want, " I'm there, period.

         Husband testified as to whether Wife worked during the marriage, and his blunt testimony reflects the difficult circumstances under which the marriage ended:

Q. All right. Now, how many jobs outside the home has she had since you and she have been married?
A. She sold Mary Kay products.
Q. And do you know what income she made from that?
A. She lost money with that. She left her -- she did not go out and do what her manager told her to do, which was to have parties and whatnot to get people to buy her product, so that her product sat around, especially when she started screwing around with Chad Hopson, and the product expired. It was over $10, 000 worth of product that had to be thrown away.
Q. Well, before all of that, what other jobs did she hold outside the home to produce a meaningful income?
A. None.
Q. None. So as far as you know, she has no real ability to earn an income anywhere close to the lifestyle that you and she had, does she?
A. She would have to go get a lot of schooling in order for that to happen.
Q. So the answer to my question is?
A. Is no.

         Regarding certain marital debts, the division of which is an issue in this appeal, Wife testified as follows:

Q. Okay. Let me talk to you about other assets that you and Dr. Santee have. There's a list of cars that we talked about and he had talked about as well. The Subaru to Dr. Santee and the Suburban to you, do you believe that's a fair --
A. Yes.
Q. -- distribution of those cars? The balance of the cars are in the hands of the children. Do you want the kids to be able to keep their car?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Okay. Now, there's some debt associated with some of the cars?
A. Uh-huh.
Q. Were some of the cars bought after this divorce started?
A. Yes.
Q. And did you sign any of that debt?
A. No.
Q. Dr. Santee did?
A. Yes.
Q. Do you ask that he be required to pay those?
A. Yes.
Q. - aren't you? There is a couple of life insurance policies that Dr. Santee has. Probably one of them -- and I'm guessing rounded values of about $50, 000. Now they're about maybe $200, 000, if that, with a loan against one of them. I think he had testified yesterday it was -- may be on here. It was over $80, 000.
A. Okay.
Q. Did you receive the benefit of any of the $80, 000 loan that Dr. Santee took out against that life insurance policy --
A. No.
Q. -- at the start of this litigation?
A. No.
Q. I know he indicated he had some expenses he had to pay, including attorney fees. Do you ask the Court to treat that liability separate and not part of your liability?
A. Yes.

         Husband testified to the expenses he had incurred since the case was filed as well as his overall financial status:

Q. Have you been paying the expenses since this case was filed almost three years ago, the household expenses, Dr. Santee?
A. Yes, whenever I received the bills from Stacey.
Q. And, again, you previously testified to that temporary agreed order dated November 1st, 2016, wherein you agreed to pay all the household expenses and the $2, 100. Did you do that?
A. Yes.
Q. Each and every ...

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