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Rummage v. Rummage

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 9, 2018

DL RUMMAGE
v.
KIMBERLY RUMMAGE

          Session April 10, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 15-D-965 Philip E. Smith, Judge No. M2016-02356-COA-R3-CV

         This is 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.

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

          DL Rummage, Antioch, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Lewis A. Williams, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Kimberly Rummage.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas R. Frierson, II, and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE

         Factual and Procedural Background

         DL 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.

         A trial 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.

         Father 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.

         Analysis

         Father 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).

         Father's Appellate Brief

         The 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 ...

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