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Howell v. Kail Howell

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

November 13, 2019

ANTHONY C. HOWELL
v.
NOEL RUTH KAIL HOWELL

          Session September 17, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-000688-17 Robert Samual Weiss, Judge.

         In this divorce case, Husband/Appellant appeals the trial court's award of $30, 000 in alimony in solido to Wife and its award of $30, 000 for Wife's attorney's fees as additional alimony in solido. Discerning no errors, we affirm.

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

          Rachel E. Putnam, John D. Woods III, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Anthony C. Howell.

          John C. Ryland, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Noel Ruth Kail Howell.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which W. Neal McBrayer and Carma D. McGee, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE.

         I. Background

         Appellant Anthony C. Howell ("Husband") and Appellee Noel Ruth Kail Howell ("Wife") were married on June 7, 2008. During the course of the parties' marriage, Husband and Wife each had periods of unemployment and struggled financially. At the beginning of the marriage, Husband worked full-time as an auto mechanic. In 2009, Husband suffered an injury, which prevented him from working as a mechanic. Thereafter, Husband worked as an auto parts manager. In March 2017, after receiving an inheritance, see infra, Husband left full-time employment and worked part-time for his brother-in-law's towing company. During the marriage, Wife worked cleaning houses and doing fire and water restoration work. In 2015, Wife's adult son from a previous relationship died; in the wake of this event, Wife took leave of her employment. Although Wife later returned to work, her ability to clean houses and do restoration work was limited due to her poor health, discussed infra.

         The parties separated on June 20, 2016, and Husband moved from the marital residence. In February 2017, Husband admitted to Wife that he had been living with his girlfriend since he left the marital residence. Shortly thereafter, on February 15, 2017, Husband filed a complaint for divorce alleging irreconcilable differences. On February 27, 2017, less than two weeks after Husband filed the complaint, his father died. One week later, Husband's paternal grandmother died. Husband was the sole heir of both estates and inherited real and personal property totaling $702, 653.00. On March 6, 2017, Wife filed an answer to Husband's complaint and a counter-complaint for divorce alleging the grounds of inappropriate marital conduct and abandonment.

         The case was tried on July 12 and 16, 2018. Prior to the hearing, the parties settled the division of certain marital property, and Wife received most of the marital assets, which were valued at approximately $21, 193.54; however, only $116.99 of this was liquid assets. The parties proceeded to trial on the remaining issues.[1]

         By order of September 11, 2018, the trial court awarded Wife a divorce on grounds of Husband's inappropriate marital conduct and abandonment. As is relevant to this appeal, the trial court awarded Wife $30, 000 in alimony in solido, payable at $1, 000 per month for thirty months. The trial court also ordered Husband to pay part of Wife's attorney's fees in the amount of $15, 541.96 as additional alimony in solido. On October 5, 2018, Wife filed a motion to alter or amend the final decree of divorce seeking an increase in the alimony in solido award from $30, 000 to $60, 000. Wife also sought additional attorney's fees. The trial court heard Wife's motion on November 9, 2018. On December 11, 2018, the trial court entered an amended final decree. Therein the trial court denied Wife's motion to increase the $30, 000 alimony in solido award, but it granted her motion for additional attorney's fees. Specifically, the trial court awarded Wife an additional $14, 458.04 (for a total of $30, 000) in attorney's fees as alimony in solido. Husband appeals.

         II. Issues

         Husband raises three issues for review, which we restate as follows:

1. Whether the trial court erred when it awarded wife ...

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