The Tennessee Court of Appeals issued a ruling earlier this year in the case of Farley v. Farley, Tenn. Ct. App. (2015), on the issue of a marriage dissolution that was granted while a husband was incarcerated.
The wife filed for dissolution of marriage while the husband was incarcerated, asserting irreconcilable differences and incarceration as grounds for divorce. The husband, acting pro se, filed his response, in which he requested an extension to respond. The wife in response filed a motion for default judgment, in order to be granted a divorce. In response, the husband stated that among other things, an irreconcilable difference did not exist, that he accepted a plea deal to shield the wife, and that the attorney representing the wife had previously represented him, and thus a conflict of interest existed.
The husband filed something he referred to as a proposed marriage settlement and outlaid a plan with a proposed division of assets. He also further implored the court to conduct hearings at the prison, or by telecommunication. However, although the court denied the wife’s motion for default judgment, finding that the dissolution was contested, it still reached a decision without including the husband as requested. In addition to dividing the assets and liabilities, it further awarded the wife an alimony award in solido.
A review of the trial court record revealed that neither the husband nor an attorney on his behalf signed the court’s order granting the divorce and devising the marital property. The court of appeals found that there was nothing in the record to indicate that the husband had received proper notice of the hearing, particularly due to the fact that it was purportedly rescheduled at least once.
Additionally, the court of appeals noted that the trial court granted the wife a divorce on the grounds of inappropriate marital conduct, although there was no evidence that the husband had notice of such a claim, nor that there were pleadings to support such a ground for the divorce. The court also found that there was no evidence that the hearing was conducted via telecommunication or that the husband was able to be involved at all, that there was not a resolution of the husband’s conflict of interest claim regarding the wife’s attorney, nor were there any findings to support the alimony award, nor regarding the division of property or debt.
Therefore, the determination was reversed and remanded.
Divorce can be incredibly stressful and complex, as demonstrated in this case. If you are contemplating a divorce, or are already involved in divorce proceedings and need advice on any other related matter, contact the Nashville family law attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC. Our legal team can guide you through the process of dissolution with compassion and competence. For an initial consultation, contact one of our attorneys today through this website, or by calling (615) 800-7096.