Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court

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The mandatory termination language in Ark. Code Ann. 9-12-312(a)(2)(D) does not apply retroactively to automatically terminate alimony awards entered before the 2013 amendment. Pursuant to a 2011 divorce decree, the court awarded Debra Mason alimony. In 2014, Debra filed a motion to modify the alimony award. Charles Mason responded that, based on a 2013 amendment to Ark. Code Ann. 9-12-312(a)(2), his obligation to pay alimony terminated when Debra began living with her boyfriend. The circuit court concluded (1) Charles's obligation to pay alimony ceased as a matter of law because Debra and her boyfriend cohabited full-time, and (2) applying the statute to the divorce decree would not have a retroactive effect. The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by the court of appeals and remanded the case to the court of appeals, holding that the statute does not automatically terminate alimony awards entered before August 6, 2013. View "Mason v. Mason" on Justia Law

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Upon the divorce of Thomas Jones and Kimberly Miller the circuit court entered a final order awarding Kimberly a $20,687.75 judgment against Thomas. The circuit court issued a writ of execution directing the sheriff to take possession and sell four vehicles owned by Thomas to satisfy Thomas’s indebtedness to Kimberly. Ollye Mae Jones, who was not married to Thomas at the time, unsuccessfully moved to intervene in the action. Ollye Mae and Thomas later filed a petition for replevin seeking possession of the four vehicles, asserting that the vehicles had been wrongfully taken from them. The circuit court dismissed the replevin action, concluding that the petition was barred by the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, and collateral estoppel; that Ollye Mae and Thomas lacked standing; and that the petition failed to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. The Supreme Court summarily affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal of the replevin action because Ollye Mae and Thomas did not challenge all the grounds that the circuit court relied on in making its decision. View "Jones v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order of adoption that granted Destiny Rodgers’ request to adopt Reanna Rodgers’ four minor children. Destiny was the current spouse of Reanna’s ex-husband. The court held that the circuit court did not err by finding that Reanna’s consent to the adoption was not required because she had significantly and unjustifiably failed to communicate with the children for a period of at least one year or to provide for their care and support as required by law or court order. The dissent argued that Reanna’s failure to communicate with her children and her failure to pay child support was justifiable. View "Rodgers v. Rodgers" on Justia Law

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The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order terminating Father’s parental rights to his twin children. The circuit court found that Father was an unfit parent based on two statutory grounds under Ark. Code Ann. 9-27-341(b)(3)(B)(i)(b) and (b)(3)(B)(ii)(a). On appeal, Father argued that the circuit court erred in both findings because the statute requires that the children have lived out of the custody of the “parent” for twelve months. The Supreme Court agreed with Father, holding that the circuit court erred in terminating Father’s parental rights because the record did not demonstrate that Father’s legal status as the biological parent was established to apply the twelve-month time period described in the statute. View "Earls v. Arkansas Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Mother and Father divorced in 2005. In 2012, the circuit court memorialized an agreement by the parties raising Father’s child-support obligation to $6,005 per month. In 2014, Father filed a petition to reduce his child support payments on the grounds that there had been a material change in circumstances. In 2014, the circuit court entered an order reducing Father’s monthly child support obligation to $2,108 per month. The new support obligation was made retroactive, and the circuit court ordered amortization of the $27,279 overpayment by a further $1,000 per month reduction in Father’s payments. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that Father met his burden of proving that there had been a material change of circumstances. View "Troutman v. Troutman" on Justia Law

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The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition to terminate Parents’ parental rights to their three children, alleging multiple grounds against each parent. After a termination hearing, the circuit court terminated the parental rights of both Father and Mother. As to Father, the circuit court concluded that DHS had proved by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Father’s rights was warranted under three grounds and that it was in the best interests of the children to terminate Father’s parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed the order terminating Father’s parental rights, holding (1) DHS proved that a ground for termination - the subsequent factors ground - existed by clear and convincing evidence; and (2) the circuit court did not err in finding that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the children. View "Martin v. Arkansas Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Gregory Pelts and Shelly Pelts divorced in 2014. In the divorce decree, the circuit court granted Shelly a marital portion of Gregory’s military retirement and ordered Gregory to pay for a survivor-benefit option for Shelly from whatever retirement payments he ended up receiving. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in treating Gregory’s nonvested active-duty retirement interest as divisible property and in ordering him to maintain a survivor-benefit plan out of his retirement income for Shelly’s sole benefit without providing sufficient justification for why Gregory must participate in the cost of the benefit. Remanded. View "Pelts v. Pelts" on Justia Law

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When Mother and Father divorced, Mother was awarded custody of the parties’ twin boys, and Father was awarded visitation. Both parties later sought an award of primary custody, and Mother requested permission to relocate with the children to Florida. After a hearing, the court entered its “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,” which included construing an agreed order as creating a joint custody arrangement and denying Mother’s request to relocate. The resulting order was entered on August 27, 2015. Mother filed a notice of appeal. The court of appeals found that the notice of appeal was fatally deficient as to the custody issues for failing to designate the August 27 final custody order. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and remanded, holding that the notice of appeal substantially complied with Ark. R. App. P.-Civ. 3(e) and therefore was not fatal to appellate jurisdiction. View "Emis v. Emis" on Justia Law

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Appellant’s former stepson, G.L., was born to Mother. After Appellant and Mother married, they had a daughter, E.M. Mother later filed a complaint for divorce against Appellant. The decree of divorce granted custody of E.M. to Mother and stated that Appellant would have reasonable visitation with G.L. Mother married Appellee the next year. Appellee subsequently filed a petition for adoption of G.L. and E.M. The circuit court granted the petition, finding that Appellant’s consent to the adoptions was not necessary. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and dismissed in part, holding (1) the circuit court’s finding that Appellant’s consent was not required for Appellee to adopt E.M. was clearly erroneous; and (2) the circuit court’s finding that adoption by Appellee was in G.L.’s best interest was not clearly erroneous. View "Martini v. Price" on Justia Law

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Christopher Foster and Leah Foster were divorced pursuant to a divorce decree that awarded Leah primary custody of the parties’ three children, with Christopher receiving visitation. The decree approved the parties’ settlement agreement regarding the disposition of the marital assets. The circuit court also found that an award of rehabilitative alimony was appropriate. The court further awarded Leah attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in its interpretation of Ark. Code ann. 9-12-312(b) or in its finding that Leah was entitled to rehabilitative alimony under the facts of this case; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion it setting the amount and the duration of the alimony award; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees and litigation-related expenses to Leah. View "Foster v. Foster" on Justia Law