April 18, 2018
from the Chancery Court for Madison County No. 72673 James F.
divorce case, the trial court awarded Wife alimony in futuro
and partial attorney's fees as alimony in solido. The
trial court additionally awarded Wife the marital home
despite the fact that Wife was unable to refinance the home
to remove Husband from the mortgage. Discerning no error, we
affirm the trial court's judgment in all respects.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
W. Camp and Alexander D. Camp, Jackson Tennessee, for the
appellant, Joey Evi Ingram.
E. Barnett and Charles H. Barnett, III, Jackson, Tennessee,
for the appellee, Gretelle Brashell Ingram.
Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which Arnold B. Goldin and Kenny Armstrong, JJ.,
STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE.
Evi Ingram ("Husband") and Gretelle Brashell Ingram
("Wife") were married on June 2, 1990 and divorced
on October 17, 2017. Husband and Wife separated in January
2015. The couple had no children during their twenty-six year
marriage. At the time of the divorce, Wife was sixty years
old and Husband was fifty-nine.
parties were employed for the majority of the marriage, and
on occasion, Husband and Wife each worked two jobs. Wife had
three years of college education. In 2007, Wife was in a car
accident leaving her with disabling back and neck injuries.
Wife was unemployed at the time of the divorce due to the
injuries resulting from the collision; however, she was
receiving a small pension, social security disability
benefits, and an income from rental properties. On the other
hand, Husband was employed full-time at Durobag and part-time
at DoubleTree Hotel.
parties also owned several pieces of real estate at the time
of the divorce: a marital residence, three rental houses, and
a tract of unimproved land. In addition, Husband and Wife
each owned one separate rental house. Prior to the
parties' divorce, one of their rental properties was
destroyed in a fire. Wife received the insurance proceeds,
paid off the balance of the loan and taxes, and retained the
remainder of the money as funds to live on.
September, 2014, Husband placed a manila folder on the
parties' kitchen counter, which contained a Property
Settlement for Wife to review indicating that Husband wanted
a divorce. Wife later testified that she believed their
marriage was a good one until this incident occurred. Wife
also stated that she did not know of a precipitating event
that would have caused Husband to ask for a divorce, with the
exception that Wife knew that Husband was communicating with
someone on Facebook.
Wife filed a complaint for absolute divorce on January 15,
2015. Husband later answered and filed a counter-complaint.
After unsuccessful mediation, the matter finally came to
trial on April 5 and 25, 2016. At trial, Husband and Wife
were the only two witnesses in the case, and some of the
testimony was highly disputed.
trial court took the matter under advisement and issued a
thorough written letter ruling on September 16, 2016.
Ultimately, the trial court divided the marital property
almost equally. Most notably, however, the trial court
awarded the marital residence to Wife, requiring her to pay
the substantial mortgage. The trial court also found that
Wife's expenses of $4, 216.00 per month were reasonable.
The trial court found, however, that Wife's income, which
included Wife's pension, social security disability, and
income from rental properties, totaled only $2, 741.00 per
month. In contrast, the trial court found that Husband's
expenses were $2, 718.00 per month with a net income of $3,
861.00 per month. Accordingly, the trial court awarded Wife
alimony in futuro in the amount of $800.00 per month. The
trial court issued its final judgment of absolute divorce on
October 17, 2016.
November 14, 2016, Wife filed a motion for contempt due to
Husband's alleged noncompliance with the October 17 final
order. Husband responded on November 16 stating that he was
unable to pay alimony payments because he was still making
mortgage payments on the marital residence, and that Wife had
not attempted to refinance the home loan or make any of the
mortgage payments. On the same day, Husband filed a motion to
alter or amend the trial court's award of attorney's
fees and alimony in futuro and to order Wife to refinance the
debt owed on the marital home, or in the alternative, to
force a sale of the property to satisfy the debt owed. On
March 1, 2017, the trial court denied in part Husband's
motion to modify the alimony and attorney's fees awards;
however, the trial court granted in part Husband's
request that Wife reasonably attempt to refinance the marital
home. The trial court therefore ordered Wife to provide
Husband with documentation from three banks or mortgage
companies of her attempts to refinance. Wife provided
documentation of her attempts to refinance, as ordered by the
trial court, but Wife was ultimately unable to refinance the
mortgage. Husband thereafter timely appealed.
raises three issues, which we have restated for clarity:
(1) Whether the trial court erred in awarding alimony in
futuro to Wife?
(2) Whether the trial court erred in ordering Husband to pay
a portion of Wife's attorney's fees?
(3) Whether the trial court erred in its assignment of debt
by requiring Husband to remain on the mortgage of the marital
home although the trial court awarded ownership of the
marital home to Wife?
presented one issue: Whether this Court should award her
costs and attorney's fees on appeal should she prevail.
we will discuss Husband's argument regarding the trial
court's decision to award Wife alimony in futuro.
Husband's argument here is two-fold. Husband initially
argues that there was no basis for the trial court to award
Wife alimony in general. Next, Husband asserts that even if
Wife was entitled to alimony, the trial court erred in
awarding Wife alimony in futuro. We will discuss each
argument in turn.
courts have "consistently recognized that trial courts
have broad discretion to determine whether spousal support is
needed and, if so, to determine the nature, amount, and
duration of the award." Parrish v. Parrish, No.
W2013-00316-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 3203352, at *5 (Tenn. Ct. App.
June 21, 2013) (citations omitted). Further, a trial
court's "'decision regarding spousal support is
factually driven and involves the careful balancing of many
factors.'" Id. (quoting Gonsewski v.
Gonsewski, 350 S.W.3d 99, 105 (Tenn. 2011)).
Accordingly, upon review, appellate courts are
"disinclined to second-guess a trial judge's spousal
support decision." Kinard v. Kindard,
986 S.W.2d 220, 234 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998). Instead, when
reviewing a spousal support award, an appellate court's
role is to "determine whether the trial court abused its
discretion in awarding, or refusing to award, spousal
support." Parrish, 2013 WL 3203352, at *5
(citing White v. Vanderbilt Univ, 21 S.W.3d 215, 223
(Tenn. Ct. App. 1999)). A trial court abuses its discretion
when it "causes an injustice by applying an incorrect
legal standard, reaches an illogical result, resolves the
case on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence, or
relies on reasoning that causes an injustice."
Id. (citing Wright ex rel Wright v. Wright,
337 S.W.3d 166, 176 (Tenn. 2011); Henderson v. SAIA, Inc
., 318 S.W.3d 328, 335 (Tenn. 2010)). Therefore, when an
appellate court is "reviewing a discretionary decision
by the trial court, such as an alimony determination, the
appellate court should presume that the decision is correct
and should review the evidence in the light most favorable to
the decision." Gonsewski, 350 S.W.3d at 105-06
(citing Wright, 337 S.W.3d at 176; Henderson v.
SAIA, Inc., 318 S.W.3d 328, 335 (Tenn. 2010)).
a trial court's decision regarding the type, length, and
amount of alimony turns upon the unique facts of each case,
courts may consider many factors, "including, but not
limited to the factors contained in Tennessee Code Annotated
section 36-5-121(i)." Parrish, 2013 WL 3203352,
at *6. These statutory factors include:
(1) The relative earning capacity, obligations, needs, and
financial resources of each party, including income from
pension, profit sharing or retirement plans and all other
(2) The relative education and training of each party, the
ability and opportunity of each party to secure such
education and training, and the necessity of a party to
secure further education and training to improve ...