Tennessee case summary on property division in divorce.
The husband and wife in this Montgomery County, Tennessee, case divorced in 2017 after 23 years of marriage. They had entered into a marital dissolution agreement. But even though the husband had in the military for 25 years, the agreement made no specific mention of his entitlement to military benefits. The agreement was approved by the court, but less than a month later, the wife moved to set aside the agreement, and asked for a share of the military retirement benefits.
She argued that she was pressured to sign the agreement and was not represented by an attorney, even though the document said she was. The trial court set the agreement aside to the extent that it related to retirement accounts and military benefits. After final judgment, the husband appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. He argued that the trial court should have honored the marital dissolution agreement.
The trial court had not gone so far as to find that there had been duress, but held that the husband exerted improper pressure. The husband had explained that the parties’ retirement accounts “cancelled out,” and downplayed the need for the wife to have her own attorney. The appeals court did point out that before approving an agreement in a case such as this, based on irreconcilable difference, the court had an obligation to look at the agreement to determine if it made adequate provision for equitable settlement. In this case, the lower court had agreed that it did not comply with this requirement.
The appeals court also noted that the agreement was approved in part based upon the recitation that both parties were represented by counsel. Since this was not true in this case, this was another reason to set aside the agreement.
For these reasons, the Court of Appeals held that the lower court had acted within its discretion in setting aside the agreement. Therefore, it affirmed the final judgment.
No. M2020–00055-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 23, 2021).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
To learn more, see Property Division in Tennessee Divorce.
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