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Ex-Husband Should Repay Mortgage to Ex-Spouse

Tennessee case abstract on assortment of cash after divorce.

Mary Hanes Lancaster Lockett v. Marc Kevin Runyan Sr.

Fayette County, Tennessee Courthouse

The husband and spouse on this Washington County, Tennessee, case had been married in 2014.  Throughout the marriage, the spouse loaned the husband about $200,000, roughly half of which was paid again throughout the marriage.  They had been divorced in 2019 after executing a marital dissolution settlement.  In that settlement, the husband acknowledged that he owed $100,000, and that he was chargeable for paying it again in installments of $2500 per thirty days. 

Two months later, the spouse was again in courtroom, asking to have the husband held in contempt for failing to make the primary two funds.

The husband answered and reported a big decline in his enterprise earnings, making him unable to make the month-to-month funds.  He argued that his failure was not willful, and requested for a discount to $1000 for six months.  The following 12 months, she requested for a judgment for the arrearages, together with curiosity and lawyer’s charges.

The trial courtroom held a listening to and held that the settlement was ambiguous.  It accepted parol proof that the husband had made funds previous to the execution of the settlement, and that the steadiness was solely $14,636.    The trial courtroom additionally denied the spouse’s request for lawyer’s charges.  The spouse then appealed to the Tennessee Court docket of Appeals.

The appeals courtroom first famous that marital dissolution agreements, as soon as accredited by the courtroom, grow to be legally binding obligations and enforceable contracts.  The trial courtroom had concluded that for the reason that settlement contained the phrase “mortgage” as a substitute of “loans,” that this created an ambiguity, for the reason that spouse had made a couple of mortgage.  However the appeals courtroom shortly concluded that this reasoning was flawed.  The usage of the singular as a substitute of the plural was immaterial, and the husband clearly acknowledged the whole quantity owed.  Because the courtroom famous, the essential reality was the quantity owed, and never how that obligation got here to be.

Since there was no ambiguity, particularly for the reason that contract said when the primary cost ought to be made, the trial courtroom erred in permitting parol proof to be thought-about.

For that reason, the Court docket of Appeals decided that the quantity owed would have to be adjusted significantly, and that the spouse was entitled to post-judgment curiosity on the elevated quantity.

The trial courtroom had primarily based its ruling of no contempt upon the allegedly ambiguous settlement.  Since this  situation was now resolved in opposition to the husband, the appeals courtroom held that the decrease courtroom would wish to revisit the problem of whether or not the husband was in contempt.

Lastly, the settlement referred to as for lawyer charges.  Because the spouse was the prevailing social gathering, the appeals courtroom held that the decrease courtroom erred in refusing them.  Due to this fact, it remanded the case for a computation of these charges.

For these causes, the Court docket of Appeals reversed and remanded the case.

No. E2020–01343-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Might 17,  2021).

See unique opinion for precise language.  Authorized citations omitted.

To be taught extra, see The Tennessee Divorce Process: How Divorces Work Start to Finish.

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