In the case of Dunn v. Dunn (No. E2014-00706-COA-R3-C.V, Tenn. Ct. App. DEC 22, 2014), Husband and Wife divorced after thirty-eight years of marriage. Following several trial dates, the trial court issued a memorandum opinion, placing value on the marital estate and splitting the estate at 60% for the wife and 40% for the husband. Trial court also charged $200,000 against the husband’s share of the estate based on dissipated assets.
The couple built a home in the late 1980’s, in which they resided for the continuation of their marriage. In early 1990, husband began working outside of the United States. Wife claims that Husband was frequently absent from the home and she was left to care for the property and their child. Wife claims that she received little financial help from husband during this period, but Husband claims that he made monetary contributions to the household during that time. Husband sold a business in 2009 and no longer works. The proceeds from selling the business were used to support the family, according to Husband.
Both parties filed motions seeking to amend the judgment. An order was entered in March 2014 making minor adjustments as requested by the parties. However, no change was made to the overall percentages of the distribution of the estate. As result, wife appeals with a list of issues for the court to consider.
First, she questioned if the court erred in the division of assets and liabilities. Wife also questioned if the material assets were correctly valued and if the court erred in the valuation date of said assets. Lastly, she questions the inclusion of Husband’s debts in to the distribution and if the assets were distributed in the proper manner. Husband requests to be awarded his attorney fees upon appeal.
The court of appeals will not disturb the decision of the trial court, unless the distribution lacks proper supporting evidence or the distribution results in an error of law or improper application the statute. The court considers several factors when determining the distribution of assets, including the duration of the marriage; the physical, mental, and financial state of both parties; the financial contributions and dissipations to the estate from each party; the value of any separate property and each parties social security benefits; and the estate of each party at the time of marriage, among other factors.
Wife argues that she should have been granted a greater percentage of the estate, because she contributed more to the estate and that Husband was responsible for the dissipation of assets. The court decided that both parties have contributed to acquiring and preserving the property. The only dissipation of assets by the husband was the sale of his business Core Roofing. Neither Husband nor Wife owned property or estate at the time of their marriage. Court also finds that Wife did contribute more income to the estate throughout the marriage. Wife also has Social Security benefits and retirement accounts that are significantly greater than Husband’s. Considering this evidence, Wife was rewarded 60 percent of the estate, along with remaining the resident of the property, while the husband was granted 40 percent. As mentioned, Husband was charged $200,000 against his share of the estate for dissipated assets.
The court of appeals agrees with trial court on the division of marital assets. The court agrees that Wife’s contributions to the estate were greater, but determines that the 60 percent awarded to the Wife and the $200,000 reduction against Husband makes the division equitable. On matters of valuation and the dates of valuation, the court of appeals recognizes the trial court’s decision as reasonable and well supported with evidence. They also recognize that Wife presented no alternative evidence at the time of the trial. Appeals court denied Husband his attorney fees, on the grounds that both parties were granted enough of the estate to afford their fees. Overall, the court of appeals affirms the trial court’s judgment.