Tennessee case summary on vacating divorce years later.
The husband and wife in this Davidson County, Tennessee, case were married in 1983 and had one child. The parties separated in 2011, and the wife filed for divorce in 2012. There were settlement negotiations, and the parties came up with a marital dissolution agreement, which the wife’s attorney prepared. After the court failed to approve the first agreement, it was renegotiated, and the court approved the agreement in 2013. The agreement was made part of the decree.
The husband came back to court in 2014 asking for the decree to be modified. He asserted that he suffered from a mental impairment when negotiating the agreement. At a hearing before Judge Phillip R. Robinson, the husband and his psychiatrist testified.
In 2016, the trial court set aside the 2013 decree. The order was based upon the husband’s severe sexual abuse as a child and post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The court held that these extraordinary circumstances warranted setting aside the decree. The lower court then held a trial on the original issues and entered its decree in November 2017. The order granted the wife alimony and divided the parties’ assets. Both parties then appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
The wife argued that the trial court should not have set aside the 2013 agreement. After reviewing the evidence, the Court of Appeals agreed that there was clear and convincing evidence that the husband was unable to understand the agreement in a reasonable manner. While there was some evidence to the contrary, the appeals court held that the lower court acted within its discretion, and that it was proper to set aside the agreement for mutual mistake of material fact.
The husband argued on appeal that the wife should have been required to pay back amounts he had paid under the original agreement. But upon reviewing the evidence, the appeals court found that these amounts were accounted for, since they were now part of the new marital estate. And after reviewing all of the statutory factors, the appeals court concluded that the ultimate division was proper.
After addressing the issue of attorney fees, the Court of Appeals went on to affirm the lower court’s judgment in its entirety.
No. M2018-00409-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jun. 27, 2019).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
To learn more, see The Tennessee Divorce Process: How Divorces Work Start to Finish.