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Poole v. Kinslow

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 5, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs February 1, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Wilson County No. 2017-DC-28 Clara W. Byrd, Judge

         In this divorce action, the trial court equitably divided the marital estate, adopted a permanent parenting plan for the parties' minor child, and set child support. On appeal, the husband challenges the allocation of marital debt, the denial of his request for equal parenting time, and the calculation of child support. We affirm.

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

          Ronald Ellis Kinslow, Springfield, Tennessee, pro se appellant.

          Amanda G. Crowell, Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellee, Sara Kelley Poole.

          W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., joined.





         On January 18, 2017, in the Circuit Court for Wilson County, Tennessee, Sara Kelley Poole ("Wife") filed for divorce from her husband of less than four years, Ronald Ellis Kinslow ("Husband"). This was Wife's first marriage and Husband's fourth. Husband filed an answer and a counter complaint for divorce.

         The union produced one child, born in September 2013. During the marriage, Husband was the primary wage earner. Wife was a full-time caregiver for the parties' child.

         Wife moved for temporary support and division of marital expenses. The court established a temporary parenting plan that named Wife primary residential parent and awarded Husband parenting time every other weekend. The court also ordered Husband to make weekly support payments for his wife and child.

         In late June, Wife, fearing Husband intended to terminate his employment, asked the court for a restraining order. On July 10, 2017, the court issued an order restraining Husband from voluntarily changing his employment during the pendency of the divorce.

         A month later, Husband asked the court for permission to accept an employment offer from Eclipse Services, LLC. In a separate motion, Husband requested additional parenting time "due to new living arrangements and [a] schedule change." After a hearing on both motions, the court denied Husband's request to change jobs because the offered compensation was less than his current pay.[1] But the court granted his request for additional parenting time and awarded him residential parenting time every other Wednesday evening.


         Much of the proof at trial focused on the parties' finances. While Husband and Wife had no significant marital assets, they had considerable debt.

         Before the marriage, Wife was debt-free and employed as an assistant property manager for an apartment complex. Husband worked mainly in construction or maintenance. He described his employment history as "excellent." But unlike Wife, Husband entered the marriage with a considerable amount of debt.

         Husband has four children from previous marriages. And he was obligated to pay child support for his two children from his second marriage. As of 2013, Husband owed $670 in monthly child support and an additional $458 per month on a child support arrearage of $45, 888. Husband claimed that the arrearage was a mistake. According to Husband, his ex-wife agreed with him and was returning part of his child support payment each month.

         Husband was also saddled with a federal tax lien of $946, 668. He disputed the amount owed to the IRS, but agreed that he had failed to file an income tax return for 2007. At trial, Husband maintained that his tax attorney had recently filed a return for 2007 and was working to resolve the IRS's questions about his 2006 return. But the tax lien remained outstanding; no payments had been made.

         After their child's birth, Wife stopped working outside the home, and the couple started a remodeling business, R&S Restoration and Remodeling. Husband was in charge of the business operations. Although R&S was organized as a sole proprietorship in Wife's name, her involvement was minimal. According to Wife, Husband chose to structure the business this way to shield the income from the IRS. The business was ultimately unsuccessful. And R&S officially closed in late 2014.

         Husband then accepted full-time employment with Central Transport. He "did everything from structural building maintenance to HVAC [and] electrical." He was paid $24 an hour plus a per diem for travel. Generally, he was on the road for ten-day intervals and then home for four. In 2015 and 2016, he ...

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