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Harris v. Harris

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

May 29, 2019

KELLY R. HARRIS
v.
LONNIE C. HARRIS

          Session April 17, 2019

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Knox County, No. 189601-3 Michael W. Moyers, Chancellor

         This appeal arose from a divorce action filed by the wife. The husband and the wife appeared before the trial court and presented a settlement agreement for the trial court's approval. Prior to entry of the court's order approving the settlement agreement, the husband filed written notice that he no longer consented to the agreement. Following entry of the trial court's order in June 2018, the husband filed a motion seeking to set aside such order pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02. In his motion, the husband argued that the trial court had failed to supply him with a functioning voice amplification system that he had requested for use during the hearing and that he had misunderstood the terms of the parties' agreement. The trial court denied the husband's motion without hearing evidence regarding whether the husband had a disability for which accommodation during the proceedings was necessary or making a finding regarding whether he had properly requested the accommodation as asserted in his motion. Upon a thorough review of the record, we vacate the trial court's judgment and remand for an evidentiary hearing concerning the husband's motion.

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

          William S. Lockett, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lonnie C. Harris.

          Scott L. Saidak, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Kelly R. Harris.

          Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and John W. McClarty, J., joined.

          OPINION

          THOMAS R. FRIERSON, II, JUDGE

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The plaintiff, Kelly R. Harris ("Wife"), and the defendant, Lonnie C. Harris ("Husband"), were married in May 1995. During the marriage, the parties had two minor children. On May 13, 2015, Wife filed a complaint for divorce in the Knox County Chancery Court ("trial court"), alleging as grounds that irreconcilable differences existed and that Husband had engaged in inappropriate marital conduct. Husband filed an answer, admitting that irreconcilable differences existed but denying that he had committed inappropriate marital conduct. Husband further included a counter-complaint, alleging that Wife had engaged in inappropriate marital conduct, or alternatively, that irreconcilable differences existed between the parties.

         Following a hearing conducted on March 31, 2017, the trial court entered an order on April 17, 2017, declaring the parties divorced pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-4-129 (2017). The trial court reserved all other issues for further hearing. Subsequently, the trial court entered an agreed order in October 2017, directing Wife to pay child support to Husband in the amount of $293 per month.

         On March 22, 2018, the parties and their respective counsel appeared before the trial court and presented for the court's approval their settlement agreement regarding custody, child support, and property distribution. The parties' counsel explained the terms of the settlement agreement to the trial court. Both Husband and Wife were sworn in by the trial court, and the trial court requested confirmation of their respective consent to the settlement agreement as follows:

Trial Court: Okay. Can I get both parties to stand, please? Ma'am, you've heard the agreement that's been announced by counsel. Is that in fact your agreement?
Wife: Yes, it is.
Trial Court: Do you agree to be bound by it?
Wife: Yes.
Trial Court: All right. Sir, you've heard the agreement that's been announced by counsel. Is that in fact your agreement?
Husband: Yes.
Trial Court: And you agree to be bound by it?
Husband: Yes. Wife's attorney subsequently agreed to draft an order memorializing the proceeding.

         Husband subsequently obtained new trial counsel, and an agreed order of substitution of counsel was entered on May 23, 2018. On May 21, 2018, Husband filed a "Motion in Opposition to the Entry of Agreed Final Decree of Divorce." In his motion, Husband stated that he suffered from "significant auditory hearing-loss" and that he had difficulty comprehending the events that had occurred during the hearing on March 22, 2018. Husband further stated that, as a result of his disability, he "was mistaken in his understanding of material terms announced to the Court on that date." According to Husband's motion, Husband had received a letter from Wife's attorney on May 11, 2018, which included the proposed order memorializing the parties' agreement. Husband asserted that he did not agree to the terms of the proposed order and as such, was ...


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