Tennessee case summary on property classification in divorce.
Claude Ellis v. Melisa Jane Godfrey Ellis
The husband and wife in this Bradley County, Tennessee, were married the day after Christmas, 1996. The husband had one child from prior marriages, and the parties had one child together. The husband filed for divorce in 2011. The husband asked the court to enforce a prenuptial agreement, but the court found it invalid, due to a failure to fully disclose his property and holdings. That decision was affirmed in a first appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
After remand, the case went to trial in 2019, and there were numerous assets to classify and divide. A number of issues were decided, including alimony. Much of the case focused on two companies, one a corporation, and one an LLC. The corporation, which husband started before the marriage, was classified as the husband’s separate property, but the LLC was classified by the lower court as marital property. An appeal of this issue was brought to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
The LLC was half owned by the other corporation, and the wife testified at trial that she never did any work for the LLC. For this reason, the Court of Appeals held that the characterization as marital property was error.
The LLC was the owner of a piece of real property, and at one point, the wife signed a quitclaim deed transferring this property. However, the importance of this deed was not specifically addressed by the lower court.
For this reason, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded this portion of the lower court’s order. On remand, it directed the lower court to inquire into the effect of this quitclaim deed.
The appeals court noted that upon remand, the lower court should revisit the issue of attorney’s fees, since the disposition would be affected by the final ruling on property.
No. E2020-00869-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 29, 2022).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
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