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Neely v. Neely

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

July 8, 2019

CHRISTINA KLEPPER NEELY
v.
BRIAN RICHARD NEELY

          Assigned on Briefs June 5, 2018

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Sullivan County No. C0016966C E. G. Moody, Chancellor

         Mother moved to hold Father in criminal contempt for his failure to pay child support in full each month. After finding a failure to pay child support as ordered, the court held father in criminal contempt. Because the order contains insufficient findings of fact, we vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

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

          C. Brad Sproles, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant,

          Brian Richard Neely. No brief filed on behalf of the appellee, Christina Klepper Neely.

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas R. Frierson II and Arnold B. Goldin, JJ., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE

         I.

         On May 19, 2016, the Chancery Court for Sullivan County, Tennessee, entered an order reducing the child support obligation of Brian Richard Neely ("Father") from $1, 244 to $890 per month retroactive to June 2014, when the older of his two children graduated high school. Among other things, the court also found that a child support arrearage had accrued in the amount of $4, 517.70, which the court ordered Father to pay to Christina Klepper Neely ("Mother") in full, plus interest, within 30 days.

         On June 7, 2017, Mother filed her "Second Amended Fourth Motion for Contempt" (the "Contempt Motion").[2] According to Mother, Father "failed to pay child support in the amount of [$]890.00 per month as Ordered by this Court" since March 2016. And she alleged that Father "ha[d] made no voluntary payment of child support in any amount since December 2, 2016."[3] Mother sought a finding that Father "willfully and without Order of this Court has failed to pay child support in the amount Ordered by this Court from March 1, 2016 to current date." Mother requested that Father be found in "willful criminal contempt" and be "punish[ed] . . . to the full extent necessary including, but not limited to incarceration, to vindicate the authority of the Court and prevent future violations." Mother also sought payment of the accumulated child support arrearage plus interest, attorney's fees, court costs, and suit expenses.

         On July 10, 2017, the court held a hearing on the Contempt Motion. Following the hearing, the court entered an order noting that the parties had a pending mediation on Father's petition for modification of the parties' parenting plan scheduled for July 20. The order provided that, if the issues of support and visitation remained unresolved following mediation, the court would "conduct a teleconference with the attorneys and announce its ruling on [the Contempt Motion]." The court reserved "[a]ll other matters."

         Mediation proved unsuccessful. And, on July 27, 2017, the court entered an order finding that Father "ha[d] failed to voluntarily make a child support payment to Mother since early December 2016" and that the child support arrearage was now $9, 628.80. The court ordered Father to pay Mother the child support arrearage with interest within 30 days. Additionally, the court "award[ed] Mother her attorney fees . . . and suit expenses," also to be paid within 30 days. Finally, the court held Father "in criminal contempt with punishment reserved."

         A month later, on August 29, 2017, the court ordered Father "to serve ten (10) days in jail and . . . to pay a fine of fifty dollars ($50.00) within thirty (30) days." But it allowed "Father [to] make a purge payment directly to Mother in the amount of $9, 949.19 by ...


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