Session April 10, 2018
from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 15-D-965
Philip E. Smith, Judge No. M2016-02356-COA-R3-CV
a divorce case in which the trial court designated the mother
as the primary residential parent, awarded her child support
and a portion of her attorney's fees as alimony, and
awarded her retroactive child support. The father appealed,
arguing the trial court erred in numerous ways. We decline to
address the father's arguments, however, and affirm the
trial court's judgment because the father's brief
does not comply with the requirements of Tennessee Rule of
Appellate Procedure 27(a) or Court of Appeals Rule 6. We
grant the mother's request for frivolous appeal damages
pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-1-122.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Affirmed and Remanded
Rummage, Antioch, Tennessee, Pro Se.
A. Williams, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Kimberly
D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Thomas R. Frierson, II, and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.
D. BENNETT, JUDGE
and Procedural Background
Rummage ("Father") and Kimberly Rummage
("Mother") were married for about eight years when
they separated in 2015. They have one child who was born in
November 2007. Father filed a complaint for divorce in May
2015, and Mother filed an answer and counter-complaint for
divorce the following month.
took place in September 2016, and the trial court entered a
Final Decree of Divorce on October 10, 2016. The court
granted Mother a divorce from Father and designated her as
the primary residential parent. The court awarded Father 109
days with the child each year. The court awarded Mother child
support in the amount of $178.16 every two weeks and $10, 000
in attorney's fees in the form of alimony, payable at the
rate of $400 per month. The court also awarded Mother
retroactive child support in the amount of $1, 140, payable
at the rate of $100 per month.
appeals the trial court's judgment, claiming that the
trial court erred in granting Mother a divorce, designating
Mother as the primary residential parent, and in awarding
Mother retroactive child support, prospective child support,
and attorney's fees. Mother argues Father's appeal
should be dismissed based on his failure to comply with Rule
27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Mother also
contends Father's appeal is frivolous and requests
damages pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-1-122.
was represented by an attorney at trial, but he represents
himself on appeal. As a pro se appellant untrained in the
law, Father is "entitled to fair and equal treatment by
the courts." Young v. Barrow, 130 S.W.3d 59, 62
(Tenn. Ct. App. 2003) (citing Whitaker v. Whirlpool
Corp., 32 S.W.3d 222, 227 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000);
Paehler v. Union Planters Nat'l Bank, Inc., 971
S.W.2d 393, 396 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1997)). We grant pro se
litigants "a certain amount of leeway" in the
preparation of their appellate briefs. See Hessmer v.
Hessmer, 138 S.W.3d 901, 903 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003)
(citing Whitaker, 32 S.W.3d at 227;
Paehler, 971 S.W.2d at 397). This means that courts
"measure the papers prepared by pro se litigants using
standards that are less stringent than those applied to
papers prepared by lawyers." Id. at 903-04
(citing Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980);
Baxter v. Rose, 523 S.W.2d 930, 939 (Tenn. 1975);
Winchester v. Little, 996 S.W.2d 818, 824 (Tenn. Ct.
App. 1998)). However, "[p]ro se
litigants are not excused from complying with the same
substantive and procedural requirements that other
represented parties must adhere to." Whitaker,
32 S.W.3d at 227; see also Chiozza v. Chiozza, 315
S.W.3d 482, 487 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2009); Hodges v. Attorney
Gen., 43 S.W.3d 918, 920 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000).
Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure govern the procedure
in all of Tennessee's appellate courts. Tenn. R. App. P.
1. Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27 addresses the
contents of an appellant's brief:
(a) The brief of the appellant shall contain under
appropriate headings and in the ...