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White v. White

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

October 29, 2014



The Law Office of Sara M. Hartness, by: Sara M. Hartness, for appellant.

Kinard, Crane, Butler & Phillips, P.A., by: David F. Butler, Jr., for appellee.




This is a child-custody case. After eight years of marriage, appellant Danette White filed a complaint for divorce against appellee Michael White on October 29, 2012. In her complaint, Danette alleged

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that she should have custody of the parties' son R.W., now seven, and in Michael's answer he denied that she should have custody. A two-day hearing was held, and the trial court entered a divorce decree on August 5, 2013, awarding custody to Michael. Danette filed a notice of appeal as well as a motion for reconsideration on September 3, 2013, and the trial court entered an order denying her motion for reconsideration on November 4, 2013. Danette filed an amended notice of appeal on November 4, 2013.

In this appeal, Danette argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motion for reconsideration. Danette also contends that the trial court erred in awarding custody to Michael. We affirm.

The initial hearing was held on May 31, 2013. At the conclusion of that hearing, Danette's counsel asserted that he had learned from opposing counsel just the day before that custody would be an issue. Danette's counsel stated, " I thought we were going to be arguing over property, and obviously I was mistaken and we resolved that." Danette's counsel asked for an additional hearing to present more testimony on the custody issue, and the trial court granted the request. The second day of the divorce hearing was held the following Monday, on June 3, 2013.

Danette lives on a chicken farm, and while she had been unemployed for a few months prior to the hearing, she anticipated resuming chicken farming in the future. Danette had temporary custody of R.W. pending the divorce, and she also has custody of her thirteen-year-old son, N.L., from a previous relationship. Danette testified that during their marriage she and Michael took equal care of R.W., and that they both love him and are good parents. Danette also testified that although N.L. is not Michael's biological son, Michael has been like a father to N.L. and has helped raise him. Danette testified that she has a close family that lives in the area and is available to help her care for her children. Danette thought that it was in R.W.'s best interest to be in her custody.

Michael testified that he is a master plumber and has owned his own business for the past seven years. He indicated that he has a good relationship with R.W. and that they engage in lots of activities together. He stated that he separated from Danette in August 2012 because of Danette's violence and inappropriate conduct. Michael introduced a video recording of an incident showing Danette's volatile behavior, where she was screaming at him, hitting him, and threatening him. Michael testified that Danette displayed this type of uncontrollable behavior at least once a month. Michael further testified that Danette was verbally abusive to the children and beat them excessively. Michael did acknowledge in his testimony that he has two older children with whom he no longer has any relationship.

Michael's mother, father, and stepmother testified that they have been involved in R.W.'s life and are available to help raise him. These witnesses testified that Danette cursed incessantly and that she often directed extremely vulgar language toward her children when disciplining them. There was also testimony that Danette had angry outbursts and administered excessive and violent corporal punishment on R.W. Finally, there was evidence that Danette engaged in the unusual practice of bathing with her two sons.

At the close of the two-day hearing, Danette's counsel suggested that the parties submit written briefs on the custody issue to be decided by the trial court, and the court agreed and set a briefing schedule. On July 1, 2013, Danette's counsel submitted a ...

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