Beyer v. Beyer

Decision Date16 October 2013
Docket NumberNo. W2011–00502–COA–R3CV.,W2011–00502–COA–R3CV.
Citation428 S.W.3d 59
PartiesDesiree M. BEYER v. Erik A. BEYER.
CourtTennessee Court of Appeals


Michael A. Carter, Milan, Tennessee, for the appellant, Erik A. Beyer.

Daniel Loyd Taylor and John N. Bean, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Desiree M. Beyer.


DAVID R. FARMER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ALAN E. HIGHERS, P.J., W. S., and HOLLY M. KIRBY, J., joined.


This appeal arises from a prolonged divorce action. On appeal, Father challenges the trial court's determinations regarding parenting time, child support, alimony, and the division of the marital estate. Father further challenges the trial court's decision finding him in both civil and criminal contempt. After thoroughly reviewing the record, we affirm in part, reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background and Procedural History

On June 11, 1994, Desiree M. Beyer (Mother) and Erik A. Beyer (Father) were married. Father graduated from medical school at the University of Tennessee in the summer of 1994, and thereafter began his career as a heart surgeon. Mother obtained a masters degree in marketing prior to the marriage, and later earned a degree in economics from Vanderbilt University in 1994. During the marriage, Mother gave birth to the parties' three daughters—Maria in 1997; Julia in 1999; and Isabella in 2004.

Upon graduating from medical school, Father accepted a general surgery residency at the University of Texas which required the parties to move to Houston, Texas. While living in Houston, Mother worked various jobs until she became pregnant with Julia in 1998. At that time, the parties decided that Mother would stay at home and care for the children. During his residency, Father often worked one hundred (100) hours or more each week, requiring him to stay at the hospital for several days at a time. In addition to caring for the children, Mother helped Father during his residency by bringing him changes of clothes to the hospital throughout the week. Since Father did not earn a substantial income during his residency, Mother's parents began assisting the parties financially in the amount of $1,500 per month.

In 2001, the parties moved to Cleveland, Ohio in order for Father to participate in a three-year residency in heart surgery. Before moving to Cleveland, Mother marketed and ultimately sold the parties' home through a for sale by owner process. In 2004, after Father completed his residency, Mother began searching for employment opportunities for Father. Throughout this process, Mother drafted and mailed cover letters and thank you notes, constructed Father's curriculum vitae, submitted multiple applications, and made phone calls before and after each of Father's interviews. Eventually, Father secured a position at a hospital in Belton, Texas based on Mother's efforts and her discovery of the job listing. As a result, in July 2004, the parties moved back to Texas. Again, before moving to Texas, Mother utilized the for sale by owner process and sold the condominium that the parties owned in Cleveland.

In 2007, the parties' relationship began to suffer after Mother confronted Father about a suspected affair. After initially denying any wrongdoing, Father eventually admitted to Mother that he was having an affair. Two days later, Father moved out of the marital residence. Thereafter, in January 2008, Mother moved with the parties' three children to her parents' home in Germantown, Tennessee. Shortly after moving to Tennessee, Mother met with Father's parents, who lived nearby in Memphis, and promised to maintain the relationship between them and their grandchildren despite the parties' marital issues.

Following the parties' separation, Father generally saw the children every other weekend when he would travel to Tennessee. From February 2008 to August 2008, the parties participated in marriage counseling and attempted reconciliation with the parties and their children living together in Texas. Despite Father's statements under oath that he did not contact his girlfriend during the attempted reconciliation with Mother, telephone records indicated that there were over three hundred (300) phone conversations between Father and his girlfriend during that period of time. In light of the parties' unsuccessful reconciliation, Mother filed her Complaint for Absolute Divorce in the Circuit Court of Shelby County on August 29, 2008. Father filed his Answer and Counter–Complaint on December 2, 2008, and Mother filed an Answer on February 3, 2009. Thereafter, on February 12, 2009, the parties agreed to the entry of a Consent Order on Temporary Parenting, which provided Father with unrestricted and unsupervised parenting time through April 2009, but reserved subsequent parenting time for “future determination.” On February 19, 2009, the parties agreed to the entry of a Consent Order on Temporary Support, which provided that Father would pay $4,100.00 per month as temporary child support and $2,500.00 as temporary alimony. The Consent Order on Temporary Support also provided that the children's private school tuition would be paid from the parties' savings account.

Throughout the litigation, numerous psychologists and counselors were involved in counseling the parties and their children. Dr. Jolene Bailey (“Dr. Bailey”) and Dr. Amy Beebe (“Dr. Beebe”), both psychologists, provided counseling for the children. Dr. F.A. Steinberg (“Dr. Steinberg”), a forensic and clinical psychologist, was appointed by the trial court to conduct forensic psychological examinations on the parties. Dr. John Ciocca (“Dr. Ciocca”), a psychologist, participated in this matter as a co-family therapist with Dr. Beebe. Dr. William Bernet (“Dr. Bernet”), a psychiatrist, was hired by Father to conduct a psychiatric examination on him to determine if he had any mental disorders that may affect his parenting skills. Patricia Maynard (“Ms. Maynard”), a licensed professional counselor and director of the visitation services program at the Exchange Club Family Center, served as the visitation supervisor and the visitation facilitator for the parties. Lastly, Dr. John Hutson (“Dr. Hutson”), a psychologist, was appointed by the trial court as a parenting coordinator to work with Dr. Beebe and Dr. Ciocca.

The relationship between Father and the children deteriorated after the parties' separation. Father's relationship with the children suffered the most following instances where he became angry and aggressive with the children. For example, in the Spring of 2009, the children visited Father in Texas. During their stay, Maria and Julia discovered photographs and other items belonging to Father's girlfriend. Upset with their discovery, the children destroyed many of the items and took some of the photographs, which they showed to Mother when they returned home to Tennessee. In response, Father called Maria over the phone, interrogated and yelled at her for her actions, and at various times throughout the conversation, threatened to involve the police if she failed to tell the truth or hung up the phone.1 Subsequently, during another visit, Father became angry with Julia for calling Mother on the phone. In response, as found by the trial court, Father dragged Julia across the floor, locked her in a closet, and gave her a book on parental alienation. Thereafter, the children frequently expressed their desires to Mother and their psychologists that they did not wish to see or communicate with Father.

On June 5, 2009, the trial court entered an Order on Hearing of April 3, 2009. The order provided, in part, as follows: (1) that the parties agreed to temporary possession of certain personal property and that no other personal property would be removed from storage by either party without a court order; (2) that Father was enjoined from making payments to his parents for repayment of loans owed to them; (3) the parties agreed to submit to psychological examinations; (4) the trial court denied Father's petition to dissolve an injunction prohibiting him from removing the children from Shelby County and prohibiting him from removing them from school; and (5) the trial court granted Mother's petition to indefinitely suspend Father's parenting time with Maria. Moreover, the trial court admonished Father that his relationship with his girlfriend had a negative impact on his relationship with the children and that he should give serious thought as to whether the relationship should continue. Despite the trial court's admonishment, Father introduced his girlfriend to Julia and Isabella over Mother's Day weekend less than two months later.

In August 2009, Father lost his job in Texas and remained unemployed for several months. Thereafter, in April 2010, Fatheraccepted a position as a heart surgeon at a hospital in Jackson, Tennessee. Father currently resides in Jackson with his girlfriend and their child, who was born in December 2010.

On September 2, 2010, the Divorce Referee conducted a hearing in this matter. Following the hearing, the Divorce Referee concluded that Father should be required to pay $8,500 per month in temporary alimony, $4,100 as temporary child support, and Mother's attorney's fees of $13,935.33. The trial court agreed, and on November 15, 2010, ordered the same by entry of its Order on Divorce Referee Hearing.

Over the course of the litigation, Mother filed eight petitions for contempt against Father. The trial court found Father to be in civil contempt on the first four petitions for failing to pay private school tuition and associated fees, for removing personal property that was in storage, and for failing to pay temporary alimony and child support. Subsequently, after conducting a hearing in January 2011, the trial court entered an order in which it found...

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