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Walls v. Walls

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

December 17, 2014

JOHN WALLS, JR., APPELLANT
v.
DOROTHY JEAN WALLS, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT No. 16DR-12-825. HONORABLE VICTOR HILL, JUDGE.

AFFIRMED.

Womack, Phelps & McNeill, P.A., by: Ryan M. Wilson, for appellant.

Martine E. Lilly, for appellee.

LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge. HARRISON and BROWN, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 120

LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge

Appellant John Walls, Jr., appeals two decisions rendered by the Circuit Court of Craighead County in his divorce case against his former wife, appellee Dorothy

Page 121

Jean Walls: (1) the court's denial of his motion to enforce a Marital Dissolution Agreement (" MDA" ), and (2) the manner in which the court divided the parties' bank accounts. We affirm.

The parties were married on February 14, 2004. While living in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2009, the parties separated. On March 2, 2009, John filed for divorce in Tennessee. After the divorce action was commenced, and in anticipation of the divorce, the parties entered into the MDA, which provided for the distribution of their assets. The MDA bears the style and case number of the Tennessee divorce case, and there is no dispute that the parties entered the MDA in anticipation of whet they believed to be an imminent divorce. However, in December 2009, the parties reconciled and ceased prosecuting their divorce action. John testified that, after the reconciliation, he continued to perform all of his obligations under the MDA, including paying Dorothy money as required by the MDA. The parties separated again in 2011, although Dorothy claims they continued to see each other. John voluntarily nonsuited the Tennessee case in 2012.

In September of 2012, Dorothy filed a suit for separate maintenance in Arkansas, where she resided. John counterclaimed for absolute divorce. In November 2013, the trial court held a two-day bench trial regarding the distribution of the couple's assets. John argued that the 2009 MDA was still a valid and binding contract and should control the distribution of assets in the current divorce. The trial court disagreed, finding that the contract was entered into in anticipation of the Tennessee divorce and became a nullity when the parties reconciled and dismissed that divorce action. The trial court then divided the couple's assets, treating only one of the parties' bank accounts as a marital asset (the joint account used by both parties, which John claimed as his own nonmarital property). The court did not divide Dorothy's two bank accounts, which were in her name only and under her sole control, because it did not deem them to be marital property. The court equally divided all property that it deemed to be marital property. This appeal followed.

" With respect to the division of property in a divorce case, the appellate court reviews the trial court's findings of fact and affirms them unless they are clearly erroneous." Coatney v. Coatney, 2010 Ark.App. 262, at 7, 377 S.W.3d 381, 385 (citing Rasberry v. Rasberry, 2009 Ark.App. 594, 331 S.W.3d 231). A finding is clearly erroneous when the reviewing court, on the entire evidence, is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Id. (citing Conlee v. Conlee, 370 Ark. 89, 257 S.W.3d 543 (2007)). " We give due deference to the trial court's superior position to determine the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony." Id.

We explained in Coatney that Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-12-315(a) mandates that all marital property is to be divided equally between the parties unless the trial court finds that such a distribution would be inequitable. 2010 Ark.App. 262, at 5-6, 377 S.W.3d at 384. In that event, the court is to make some other division that the court deems equitable, taking into consideration a number of factors: the length of the marriage; age, health, and station in life of the parties; occupation of the parties; amount and sources of income; vocational skills; employability; estate, liabilities, and needs of each party and opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital ...


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