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Posted by: Landry Butler on Dec 11, 2017

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Stephanie L. Prager and Shelley S. Breeding, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kim Covarrubias.

Attorneys 2:

J. Patrick Henry, Kingston, Tennessee, for the appellee, Gerald Edward Baker.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

This appeal arises out Husband’s petition to reduce his alimony in futuro obligation and Wife’s motion for criminal contempt for Husband’s failure to pay his alimony obligation in full. Wife opposed the modification of alimony on two grounds: (1) the 2007 Marital Settlement Agreement was not modifiable and (2) there had been no material change in circumstances. The trial court held that the alimony in futuro provision was modifiable and, based on a finding that Husband had proven a material change in circumstances, reduced Husband’s alimony obligation. The court then calculated Husband’s alimony arrearage for 2015 based on his income in 2007, not on his income as stated on his W-2 for 2015, which was greater. The court also dismissed the contempt petition upon a finding that Wife failed to prove the essential elements. Wife appeals, contending the trial court erred (1) by dismissing her motion for criminal contempt; (2) by finding that the trial court had the authority to modify alimony; (3) by finding that a substantial and material change in circumstances warranted a modification; and (4) by failing to properly calculate Husband’s alimony arrearage for 2015. We have determined that the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution precludes us from reviewing the trial court’s decision to dismiss the contempt petition; therefore, we affirm the dismissal of the criminal contempt petition. As for Husband’s petition to modify alimony in futuro, we affirm the trial court’s determination that the alimony in futuro provision was modifiable; however, we have determined that there is no factual basis to support a finding that Husband proved a substantial and material change in circumstances. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s decision to decrease Husband’s alimony obligation and remand with instructions to reinstate the alimony award as stated in the final divorce decree. Because the alimony arrearage judgment was based on the reduced alimony obligation, we also reverse that award and remand with instructions for the trial court to award an arrearage judgment based on Husband’s gross earnings in 2015, not his salary in 2007. Therefore, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for recalculation of the alimony arrearage judgment.