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Wife to Pay 1/2 Husband’s Car Accident Judgment, She Let Policy Lapse


Tennessee case summary on debt division in divorce.

Sean Christopher Davis v. Samantha Jean (Davis) Hofer

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While it stated that each party was responsible for his or her own debts, it never identified which debts those were.

In late 2019, the husband and wife in this Sumner County, Tennessee, case were divorced based upon their stipulation.  Other than a child support arrearage, the decree did not address any specific issues, and reserved judgment on all other issues not specifically addressed.  After a hearing described by the court as the “final hearing,” a supplemental decree was issued addressing the parenting plan.  No debts were identified, and the decree provided only that each party was responsible for his or her own debts.

Shortly thereafter, there was another evidentiary hearing.  A tax liability for a previous year was identified as a “joint debt.”

Another issue involved an automobile accident.  The accident involved the husband.  The wife had previously paid the insurance for the vehicle, but the coverage had lapsed at the time of the accident.  The result was a judgment against the husband, and he sought reimbursement for half, due to the wife’s allowing the policy to lapse.  The trial court agreed with the husband and held that the wife was responsible for half of the judgment.

The wife appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.  She argued that the trial court had no authority to amend the final judgment.  She argued that the judgment had become final after the evidentiary hearing and its order.

But the Court of Appeals disagreed with her position.  It noted that the order from that hearing reserved the determination and division of assets and debt.  It held that this included identification of the debts.  While it stated that each party was responsible for his or her own debts, it never identified which debts those were.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court’s disposition of the debt, and agreed that the lower court had considered it properly.  Therefore, it affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

The Court of Appeals opinion was drafted by Judge W. Neal McBrayer, and agreed to by Judges J. Steven Stafford and Thomas R. Frierson II.

No. M2021-01132-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 19, 2022).

See original opinion for exact language.  Legal citations omitted.

To learn more, see Property Division in Tennessee Divorce and view our video Is Tennessee a 50 50 divorce state?