Tennessee Court of Appeals Affirms Divorce Case Award

The Tennessee Court of Appeals rendered a decision in a marital dissolution case involving substantial claims of inappropriate marital conduct and misappropriation of marital funds.

In the case, Holifield v. Holifield, Tenn. Ct. App. (2014), the husband and wife operated various dental care clinic businesses, in which the wife was employed as a manager/administrator and the husband as a dentist. After the filing of the divorce, the husband admitted to having removed the wife’s name from several documents, including accounts related to the business and the like.

The husband appealed the trial court’s judgment on various grounds, including the overall division of property, the awards of alimony, and the finding of his being in contempt.

The divorce was the conclusion of a 26-year marriage, in which the husband and wife had worked together to build an extensive dental care business, which included various locations and many employees. The couple had also accumulated various real estate properties, vehicles, and other tangible assets. Additionally, the husband had begun to receive disability payments.

The husband filed for divorce, alleging irreconcilable differences, inappropriate marital conduct, and adultery. The wife counter-claimed inappropriate marital conduct. During the course of the trial, the wife did not deny having kissed another man, and the husband did not deny having sexual relations with some 26 other women during the parties’ marriage. It was apparently undisputed that the husband had engaged in affairs with the parties’ friends and employees, and he had engaged in unprotected sex with prostitutes.

Therefore, on appeal, the court reviewed the trial court’s findings as a whole. The standard for division of marital property in Tennessee does not necessarily require that each party takes equal shares, but rather that the end result is fair.

The Court of Appeals stated that the trial court judgment contained extensive evidence, including statements from various witnesses, and an abundance of determinative fact-finding from the lower court judge. In evaluating all of the factors relevant to the dissolution, including the parties’ relative earning capacities, their lifestyle during the marriage, and their various assets, the Court of Appeals found that there was no abuse of discretion and that the relevant standards regarding an equitable division of the assets were followed.

The court also affirmed the awards of the various kinds of alimony, finding that the wife’s earning capacity was less than the husband’s, and that the husband’s income stream, even though he didn’t have to currently work, was much greater. Additionally, due to the contempt issues, the husband had created an additional need for disputes between the parties, which protracted the process.

On the basis of an overview of all the findings of fact and its conclusion that there was no abuse of discretion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s findings and further awarded the wife her attorney’s fees on appeal.

If you have a family law matter in Tennessee, contact the Nashville family law attorneys at MHPS. Our legal team can guide you through the process of dissolution with compassion and competence, or assist you in any other family law matter. For an initial consultation, contact one of our attorneys today through this website, or by calling (615) 800-7096.

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