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Blount v. Blount

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

March 22, 2018

THERESA AILEEN BLOUNT
v.
HOWARD PAUL BLOUNT, III

          Assigned on Briefs October 2, 2017

          Appeal from the General Sessions Court for Roane County No. 4322A Dennis W. Humphrey, Judge

         This case involves a post-divorce petition seeking military retirement benefits not allocated at the time of the divorce. The trial court awarded Theresa Aileen Blount (Wife) the requested benefits over the objection of her former spouse, Howard Paul Blount, III (Husband). The trial court also awarded Wife attorney's fees in the amount of $6, 000. Husband appeals. Wife raises her own issues. She seeks additional attorney's fees; an award of travel expenses; and a remand to the trial court for the purpose of calculating Wife's entitlement in accordance with the "retained jurisdiction method." We affirm the trial court's order granting benefits. We remand the case to the trial court for the purpose of (1) determining the appropriate valuation method for calculating Wife's benefits and (2) thereafter describing each party's respective legal interest in Husband's military pension.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the General Sessions Court

          Joe R. Judkins, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the appellant,

          Howard Paul Blount, III. Lisa Collins Werner, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Theresa Aileen Blount.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr. and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE

         I.

         The material facts of this case are undisputed. The parties were married in 1985. At that time, Husband was in the military. He continued serving in the military until 1997. Shortly thereafter, Wife filed for divorce. On April 19, 2002, the parties entered into a "Stipulated Judgment of Divorce Reserving All Other Issues." Although the parties eventually agreed to a permanent parenting plan, their attempts to resolve various property disputes through mediation were unsuccessful. In 2004, the parties appeared before a special master to resolve eight specific issues. After hearing the evidence and considering the parties' arguments, the master orally addressed each of those issues. That oral ruling was incorporated by reference in the "Report of the Special Master." On February 18, 2005, the trial court entered an "Order of Confirmation, " which substantially adopted the findings and recommendations of the master.

         Following the trial court's order of confirmation, both parties filed petitions for contempt. Eventually, Husband and Wife were able to resolve these issues through mediation and on June 13, 2007, the trial court entered an "Agreed Order Resolving Contempt Petitions." In that order, the court stated that the parties "have agreed to a compromise of all issues now pending in this cause."

         In 2015, Wife filed a "Petition for Payment of Military Benefits." In response, Husband filed a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss, asserting the affirmative defenses of (1) res judicata; (2) laches; (3) estoppel; and (4) waiver. After asking the parties to submit briefs, the trial court issued its "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, " in which the court denied Husband's motion to dismiss and granted Wife the requested benefits. Later, however, the trial court set aside those findings "because the only issue before the Court at the time that the Court made the findings and recommendations was [Husband's] Motion to Dismiss on the pleadings . . . ." Consequently, the court issued a separate order denying Husband's motion to dismiss on the pleadings and set a date to conduct a hearing on the merits of the case.

         At the hearing, Wife relied upon the evidence in the record (primarily her brief filed in opposition to Husband's motion to dismiss) to prove her entitlement to the military retirement benefits. Husband also rested his case without offering any additional proof. Ultimately, the trial court granted Wife her "marital share" of Husband's military pension as well as $6, 000 in attorney's fees. The court refused Wife her travel expenses. Husband appeals.

         II.

         In this appeal, the parties ask us to address the following issues:

Whether the trial court erred in denying Husband's motion to dismiss.
Whether the trial court erred in granting Wife a portion of Husband's military retirement benefits.
Whether the trial court erred by failing to specify a method of calculating Wife's entitled benefits.
Whether the trial court erred in awarding Wife partial attorney's fees and no travel expenses.

         III.

         Significantly, Husband states the following with respect to ...


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