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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jan 31, 2014

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

William E. Friedman, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Plaintiff/Appellant, Deidra Kay Minor

Attorneys 2:

No brief filed on behalf of Defendant/Appellee, Melvin Richard Nichols

Judge(s): KIRBY

This appeal involves the interpretation of a marital dissolution agreement. In the parties’ divorce, the wife was awarded the marital home and the associated debt on the home. In the parties’ marital dissolution agreement, the husband was required to pay alimony in an amount that covered half of the wife’s monthly mortgage payments. The alimony payments were to be made for fifteen years or until the mortgage on the marital home was “paid off in full.” The husband stopped making his alimony payments and the wife filed a contempt petition against him. While the contempt petition was pending, the wife fell behind on her mortgage payments and the house was sold in foreclosure. The husband then filed a petition to terminate his alimony obligation. After a hearing on both petitions, the trial court held the husband’s failure to pay alimony constituted willful contempt of court. Interpreting the marital dissolution agreement, however, the trial court also held that the husband’s alimony obligation ended when the marital home was sold in foreclosure, because at that point the mortgage was “paid off in full.” The wife now appeals. We decline to interpret the parties’ marital dissolution agreement in a manner that would terminate the husband’s alimony obligation if the foreclosure resulted from his contemptuous failure to pay alimony to the wife. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s decision and remand for further proceedings.