Farrar v. Farrar

Decision Date25 July 1977
Citation553 S.W.2d 741
CourtTennessee Supreme Court
PartiesJoan Adkins FARRAR, Petitioner, v. James T. FARRAR, Respondent.

J. Travis Price, Springfield, Frank J. Runyon, Runyon & Runyon, Clarksville, for petitioner.

Collier Goodlett, Jr., Goodlett, Peay & Hurt, Clarksville, for respondent.

HENRY, Justice.

This divorce action raises two questions: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence to support the decree and (2) whether proof of adultery may form the basis of a divorce grounded on a charge of cruel and inhuman treatment. The trial judge dismissed the husband's complaint and awarded the petitioner (wife) a divorce, under her counterclaim, on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the award of divorce was not justified by the pleadings and the proof. We granted certiorari to examine the correctness of this holding.

I.

Dr. James T. Farrar filed his complaint seeking an absolute divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. His wife filed her answer and counterclaim (designated as a cross-complaint), generally denying the allegations of the complaint and seeking a divorce from bed and board upon the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment.

On motion for a more specific statement, Joan Farrar amended her counterclaim on January 9, 1975. In this amendment she alleged inter alia that Dr. Farrar "has been keeping open and notorious company" with another woman. Dr. Farrar moved under Rule 12.05, Tenn.R. of Civ.P., for a more definite statement. Pursuant to this motion, and the order of the trial judge, on February 27, 1975, she filed a second amendment to her counterclaim. In this pleading she named the woman, Judy Johnson, and alleged that Dr. Farrar had taken trips with her, "even going to places outside the State"; that this relationship was "much closer than society accepts"; that he has been a frequent visitor at her residence; that they have eaten evening meals together on a number of occasions; and that they "have stayed in motel rooms for many hours at a time during late night hours, if not in fact all night."

These pleadings contain no specific charges of adultery, but merely allege this open and continuous association with Judy Johnson as one of the details of her charge of cruel and inhuman treatment. Still another motion was made for a more definite statement and on April 4, 1975, Joan Farrar filed her third amendment specifying trips by Dr. Farrar and Judy Johnson to San Francisco and Canada, an evening meal at the Hearth Restaurant in Nashville, a tryst at the Downtowner in Nashville, and a trip to St. Louis. No answer was filed to this amendment.

II.

We precede our very limited discussion of the proof by recognizing the correct standard of review. Divorce actions are reviewable under Sec. 27-303, T.C.A., which means that they are accompanied by a presumption of the correctness of the action of the trier of fact unless the evidence preponderates against the same. Greene v. Greene, 43 Tenn.App. 411, 309 S.W.2d 403 (1957). Every intendment is in favor of the correctness of the decree of the trial court. Chappell v. Chappell, 37 Tenn.App. 242, 261 S.W.2d 824 (1952).

The testimony of Joan Farrar and that of her witnesses does not fully support the charges contained in her pleadings. The testimony of Dr. Farrar is quite another story.

He fully confirms Joan Farrar's testimony that on November 5, 1973, upon returning from a trip to Atlanta, he advised her that he wanted out; that the marriage was over; and that he wanted a divorce. He asked her to bring suit. Mrs. Farrar's testimony corroborated the Doctor. She testified to her disbelief and shock when he advised her that he wanted a divorce and to her dismay at his advice, which, in her own words, was as follows:

He told me if I would give him his freedom to take everything he had, just free him, and go out and find myself a man and move to Nashville and get my job back; that he didn't need me any more, and it was a good feeling.

Dr. Farrar admitted to the specifics of a continuing affair with Judy Johnson. He admitted to having spent one or more nights with her in Nashville, sleeping in the same bed; to having been to the Downtowner Motel with her; and to having stayed in her room at night for four or five hours at a time.

He admitted that he took Judy with him to Banff Springs, British Columbia, in the Canadian Rockies, to attend a sexual hypnosis seminar. Dr. Farrar is a radiologist. His interest in sexual hypnosis is not explained in the record. At any rate, he and Judy registered together and stayed in the same room. En route they shared a hotel room in San Francisco. On another occasion she accompanied him to St. Louis, where he registered at the Chase Park Plaza and she "was in and out."

Notwithstanding having spent numerous nights with Judy in several states and Canada, the Doctor denies that they ever had sexual relations. Dr. Farrar was born on Washington's birthday in 1936. He was thirty-nine or forty years of age at the time of these escapades. The trial judge obviously was not impressed with his innocence abroad or at home, and his testimony, no doubt, placed a severe strain upon his patience and forbearance.

The record is somewhat meager as to other extra-marital affairs; but it does show, by the Doctor's testimony, that he had not spent the night with anyone else, "other than a pick-up at the bar or something like that"; but, he says, this happened "rarely." He admits to being registered at a Ramada Inn with another woman but does not know her name.

Cruel and inhuman treatment has been defined in various ways and in numerous cases. Further definition is unnecessary. Suffice it to say we cannot conceive of any stronger case of cruel and inhuman treatment than a persistent pattern of adulterous conduct. Nor may it be excused on the basis of a spouse not having contemporaneous knowledge of its occurrence. The hurt, the humiliation, the shame, the wounded pride, the rejection are the same whether the knowledge comes before, during or after the fact. Adultery is rarely perpetrated openly and in the daylight. By its very nature its commission is normally not discovered until the act has been consummated. No man, set upon a pattern of adulterous conduct, willingly furnishes proof of his own turpitude.

We hold that there was ample evidence of cruel and inhuman treatment in this case. We further hold that proof of adultery is admissible in a divorce action charging cruel and inhuman treatment and may form the basis for a decree resting upon cruel and inhuman treatment.

Indeed, we note an emerging trend to de-scandalize divorce proceedings. The whole purpose of the legislature in enacting recent amendments to Sec. 36-805, T.C.A., 1 was to avoid the insertion of scurrilous matter in divorce bills, with the result that the section now requires that the original pleading "shall set forth the grounds for the divorce in substantially the language of the statute," etc., with the right reserved to the defendant to demand a bill of particulars. See also Rule 12.05, Tenn.R.Civ.P.

A further indication of this trend is Chapter 107 of the Public Acts of 1977, adding irreconcilable difference as a ground of divorce.

We find nothing in reason, logic or precedent which would,...

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37 cases
  • Earls v Earls, 99-00035
    • United States
    • Tennessee Court of Appeals
    • 31 Mayo 2000
    ...a policy that also undergirds the legislative enactment allowing divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences. In Farrar v. Farrar, 553 S.W.2d 741 (Tenn. 1977), Mr. Justice Henry, writing for the Court said: "We fully recognize that considerations of public policy demand that the ins......
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    • Tennessee Court of Appeals
    • 16 Octubre 2013
    ...of property are reviewed de novo with a presumption of correctness unless the evidence preponderates otherwise. Farrar v. Farrar, 553 S.W.2d 741, 743 (Tenn.1977).Id. at 133.1. Separate Property The first step in dividing a marital estate is to identify all of the parties' property interests......
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    • United States
    • Tennessee Court of Appeals
    • 5 Abril 2013
    ...of property are reviewed de novo with a presumption of correctness unless the evidence preponderates otherwise. Farrar v. Farrar, 553 S.W.2d 741, 743 (Tenn. 1977).Id. at 133.1. Separate Property The first step in dividing a marital estate is to identify all of the parties' property interest......
  • Edmisten v. Edmisten
    • United States
    • Tennessee Court of Appeals
    • 13 Mayo 2003
    ...S.W.2d at 752. Building upon this statement from Lingner, Justice Henry, writing for the Tennessee Supreme Court in Farrar v. Farrar, 553 S.W.2d 741, 744-45 (Tenn. 1977), stated, "We fully recognize that considerations of public policy demand that the institution of marriage be sheltered an......
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