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Farrell v. Farrell

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

November 5, 2014

CYNTHIA BUTLER FARRELL APPELLANT
v.
HANFORD FRANCIS FARRELL APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. DR 09-580] HONORABLE JIM D. SPEARS, JUDGE

Clark Law Firm PLLC, by: Suzanne G. Clark, for appellant.

Ralph C. Williams, for appellee.

REVERSED AND REMANDED

ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge

This divorce case returns after we reversed and remanded the previous appeal so that the Sebastian County Circuit Court could value some of the marital assets and explain its reasoning for an unequal distribution of those marital assets in its divorce decree. Farrell v. Farrell, 2013 Ark.App. 23, 425 S.W.3d 824 (Farrell I). Cindy Farrell again appeals and argues that the circuit court should have provided a more equal distribution of the marital assets and that the court erred in its award of alimony to her. We reverse and remand.

This was a marriage lasting more than thirty years. The parties agreed that a substantial amount of their property was marital property. Hank owns a minority interest in a conglomerate of closely-held family businesses referred to by the circuit court and the parties as the Farrell-Cooper Companies. He also owns an interest in what the parties called the Texas entities or ventures. The circuit court valued the marital interest in the Farrell-Cooper Companies at $9.9 million after applying a discount, with the entire interest being awarded to Hank. Cindy was awarded the remaining marital property, which included the proceeds from the sale of the marital home, another house in Fort Smith, and the parties' IRA and 401(k) accounts, values assigned by the circuit court of approximately $1.045 million. The court awarded Cindy lifetime alimony of $10, 000 per month to help equalize the property division. In Farrell I, we said that it was not clear whether the circuit court had included in its valuation of the Farrell-Cooper Companies the valuation of the Texas ventures. We then remanded the case to the circuit court to make a valuation of Hank's interest in the Texas ventures. We also directed the circuit court to comply with the requirements of Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-12-315 so that the court provide an explanation for such unequal division in its divorce decree. We did not reach Cindy's arguments concerning the award of alimony; instead, we allowed the circuit court to reconsider the award of alimony in light of the value it placed on the Texas ventures.

On remand, the circuit court asked for briefs on the remaining issues. Cindy argued that the Texas entities should be valued at least $3.2 million, if not higher, and included in the marital estate. She also sought at least half of the marital estate, arguing that the statutory factors supported an unequal division of the marital property in her favor. She also argued that Hank should immediately pay her for her interest in the marital estate.

Hank argued that the Texas entities had already been included in the marital estate. He noted that his expert placed a negative valuation of approximately $535, 000 on the Texas entities. He also asserted that Cindy's alimony award was sufficient to satisfy her share of the marital estate.

In a June 3, 2013 letter opinion, the court began by incorporating its original August 31, 2011 letter opinion into its new decision as well as the original divorce decree to the extent it did not conflict with the June 3, 2013 letter opinion. The court valued the Texas entities at $1.6 million, with each party's share at $800, 000. The court then applied a thirty-five-percent minority discount to Cindy's share, with her share calculated at $670, 148.58. This, according to the circuit court, brought Cindy's share of the marital estate to approximately $5.2 million. The Texas entities themselves were assigned, in their entirety, to Hank. The court also increased Cindy's alimony from $10, 000 to $13, 000 per month to compensate for the unequal distribution of the marital estate. The circuit court required Hank to provide a $3 million life-insurance policy with Cindy as the beneficiary to insure the alimony obligation.

Although the circuit court had not yet entered its decree on remand, Hank filed his motion seeking reconsideration, requesting that he be relieved of the requirement to provide life insurance for Cindy's benefit. Cindy argued that the insurance obligation should continue because she was already receiving, according to her, less than one-third of the marital estate.

The court granted Hank's motion and removed the requirement that he provide life insurance for Cindy's benefit, holding that Cindy had sufficient funds to insure Hank's alimony obligation.

Cindy filed a motion seeking reconsideration on June 26, 2013, renewing her argument that the "alimony" did not compensate her for the value of the marital estate. She requested that she be awarded a lump-sum payment for her share of the estate or that the alimony award be adjusted to reflect the value of fifty percent of the marital estate.

The circuit court's amended decree was entered on July 2, 2013. As noted in the June 3, 2013 letter opinion, both the 2011 and 2013 letter opinions were incorporated by reference into the amended decree. The amended decree also contained a provision disposing of Hank's motion to be relieved of the obligation to insure the award and of Cindy's first motion for reconsideration.

Cindy filed a second motion for reconsideration on July 15, 2013. In her motion, Cindy maintained her objections to the award of alimony as insufficient and inequitable to compensate her for her share of the marital estate. In addition to a fifty-percent share of the marital estate, she argued that she should be entitled to ...


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