Tennessee Court Reviews Property Division, Child Support in Divorce Action

In a recent divorce case, Merkel v. Merkel (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 31, 2016), the Tennessee Court of Appeals reviewed a decision by the trial court that divided the marital estate, awarded child support retroactively, and awarded money to the wife’s father for various loans made to the husband. The trial court order also prohibited a specific friend of the mother’s from having contact with the children. Both parties appealed. Ultimately, the appeals court modified the order to remove the no-contact prohibition, but it affirmed the trial court in all other respects.

On appeal, the husband contended that joinder of the wife’s father in the divorce action was improper. Generally, third-party intervention in divorce actions is not allowed, although intervention is permitted when the party seeking to intervene has a legally enforceable interest in the proceeding. In rejecting the husband’s argument, the court noted that intervention may be allowed when it is necessary to secure justice, and the third party whose property interests may be adversely affected may intervene to protect their rights. As a result, the appeals court found the trial court did not err in ordering the husband to pay a monetary amount to the wife’s father since sufficient evidence was presented to support the award.

The husband also argued that he should have been awarded one-half of the wife’s interest in property purchased by the wife’s father while the parties were separated. Under Tennessee law, separate property includes property acquired by a spouse at any time by gift, bequest, or descent. The court noted that the evidence indicated that the residence was a gift to the wife from her father. Although an increase in the value of the residence could be considered marital property, there was no evidence of this at the trial. Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed the decision of the trial court with regard to the property division. And, as to the father’s argument concerning child support, the appeals court ruled that the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines plainly allowed the trial court to award child support retroactively.

Finally, the court addressed the wife’s argument that the court erred in prohibiting her friend from being around the children. Generally, the details of custody and visitation with children are within the broad discretion of the trial judge. However, the court found there was no evidence that could be characterized as negative, or that would support a conclusion that he should not be around the children. The court, therefore, modified the order to remove the prohibition.

A knowledgeable family law attorney can represent your interests in court in a variety of domestic disputes and provide invaluable legal guidance. The Nashville divorce lawyers at MHPS offer comprehensive legal representation to clients in all aspects of family law, including marital separation, property distribution, child support and alimony, custody matters, and more. To schedule a consultation with one of our dedicated attorneys, call (615) 800-7096 or contact us online.

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