FROM THE WHITE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. DR-2013-568]
HONORABLE THOMAS HUGHES, JUDGE
D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson, for
M. Abney, P.A., by: Robert M. Abney, for appellee.
F. VIRDEN, Judge
Danny Bennett appeals from the White County Circuit
Court's December 1, 2014 order that divided the
parties' marital property and debt, awarded permanent
alimony, and awarded attorney's fees. Danny raises four
points on appeal: (1) the second circuit court judge
misinterpreted the prior judge's temporary order
concerning the mortgage payments, and, after the marital home
was sold, Danny should not have been ordered to continue
making $1600 more each month in payments toward the marital
debt than Sheila was required to pay; (2) the circuit court
abused its discretion in awarding Sheila the amount of
attorney's fees that it did; (3) the circuit court erred
in not making Sheila equally liable for the Audio Express
debt; and (4) the circuit court abused its discretion in
awarding the amount of alimony that it did. We affirm.
August 2013, Sheila Bennett filed for divorce after thirty
years of marriage to Danny Bennett. Danny answered and filed
a counterclaim for divorce, citing general indignities,
though he eventually withdrew his counterclaim. Sheila
requested temporary alimony. On September 17, 2013, the
circuit court (at that time Judge Craig Hannah) held a
hearing on the matter.
Bennett testified at the hearing. Sheila stated that her
weekly income was about $420 and that her ex-husband made
about twice her income. Sheila requested that the circuit
court allow her to live in the marital home, that it award
her the truck she drove, that it grant her temporary
possession of the home's furnishings, and that it grant
her spousal support and attorney's fees. Sheila requested
that the circuit court order Danny to continue paying the
mortgage and other bills. Sheila testified that she gave
Danny $200 a week and that he had been using that money to
pay bills. Sheila testified that although she could live with
her mother temporarily she could not live there long-term.
Bennett also testified. He denied that he had spent any money
on his girlfriend, and he denied that she accompanied him on
any trips. He also testified that he could make many of the
repairs to the marital home that were necessary before
selling it. Danny requested that the court allow him to stay
in the marital home to make the necessary repairs in order to
prepare it for sale. Danny disagreed that Sheila paid him
$200 once a week, stating that she actually paid him $400 a
month and that he was paying the bulk of the debt. Danny
stated that he made either two or three times Sheila's
circuit court made the following statement in response to the
testimony presented at the hearing:
It appears that the parties have more debts than they can pay
and neither one alone can pay all of these debts. The fair
thing to do on some of these bills is to make the minimum
payments on each one. Mr. Bennett will pay the first $1600
and then both will be equally obligated to pay their half. By
doing that I think that it will get this to where their
disposable income is down to about the same amount. On the
home, if the parties can't agree within thirty days then
both parties will have to move out. The house will go on the
market within forty-five days.
at the end of the hearing, the following clarification
The Court: Mr. Bennett will be liable for some sort of
alimony, or shifting of the debt, or something, because that
is what the law is going to require. On a temporary basis, I
think Mr. Bennett can pay the first $1600 of the debt. That
gets him fairly close to the same equivalent as paying
Counsel for Sheila: I am trying to make sure I understand
what the Court is telling me.
The Court: He will pay the first $1600 and then the balance
of the debt they are equally responsible for.
Counsel for Sheila: So it's up to us to determine what
that $1600 is going to be made up of?
The Court: Pay the house payment and the second mortgage and
that just about eats it right there.
Counsel for Danny: Certainly they can work toward listing it
while the repairs are being made. Looking at the Affidavit of
Financial Means and the supplements provided by the parties,
the monthly debt obligation of the parties is $5375, but what
this Court is ordering is that Danny Bennett will pay the
first $1, 600.00 of that sum?
The Court: I think the mortgage . . .
Counsel for Danny: The mortgage and the second mortgage.
The Court: The first and the second mortgage gets you right
there at that amount. I don't know if these other