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Miller v. Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

March 18, 2015

EDGAR D. MILLER, APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS OFFICE OF CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT, APPELLEE

Page 734

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 735

APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTEENTH DIVISION. NO. 60DR-98-1328. HONORABLE MORGAN E. WELCH, JUDGE.

AFFIRMED.

Lucas Law, PLLC, by: Molly Lucas, for appellant.

Donna D. Galloway, for appellee.

KINARD and BROWN, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 736

ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Chief Judge.

Appellant Edgar D. Miller appeals the February 18, 2014 order of the Pulaski County Circuit Court modifying his child-support obligation to his adult child, C.M., based on C.M.'s special-needs status and inability to care for himself, and awarding retroactive support from May 12, 1998, through January 24, 2014. He argues that the circuit court clearly erred in re-imposing a child-support obligation past the age of eighteen for C.M. because (1) the child-support obligation was terminated by operation of law three years prior; (2) the initial decree did not address the issue of continued support, although C.M. was disabled at the time of the decree; (3) the Office of Child Support Enforcement (O.C.S.E.) did not file a counterclaim; and (4) equitable defenses applied. We affirm.

I. Background

Appellant and Eva N. Miller were divorced pursuant to a May 12, 1998 decree, which granted primary custody of the parties' three minor children to Ms. Miller, with reasonable visitation given to appellant. Appellant was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $300 bi-weekly. It is undisputed that C.M. had a disability at the time the decree was entered, but the decree was silent as to that issue.

After appellant lost his job in 1999, he petitioned the circuit court for a reduction in child support, which was reduced by an order dated June 15, 1999, to $230 bi-weekly. Appellant maintained child-support payments for fourteen years. The oldest child, C.M., turned eighteen on October 24, 2010, and the set of twins turned eighteen in June 2012. There is conflicting evidence as to whether appellant received notice when C.M. turned eighteen that he no longer owed a duty of support for C.M., but it is undisputed that paragraph seventeen of the original divorce decree states that " child support shall be paid until the last child of the parties attains age 18 or finishes high school, whichever event occurs last." Based on the payment-history chart supplied by O.C.S.E. covering the period from May 12, 1998, through September 20, 2013, it does not appear that appellant modified his payment at any time based upon C.M. reaching the age of eighteen.

On March 18, 2013, appellant filed a motion to modify child support based on the fact that the parties' children had reached the age of majority. O.C.S.E. filed a motion to intervene on August 6, 2013, pursuant to its responsibilities under Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-14-210(d) (Repl. 2009), and a motion for judgment regarding child-support arrearage on that same date. O.C.S.E. filed a reply to appellant's motion to modify child support that same day in which it admitted appellant's allegations with respect to C.M. However, in its amended reply filed on August 21, 2013, the O.C.S.E. affirmatively stated that C.M. was developmentally disabled and would need care for the rest of his life and that appellant should be ordered to continue to pay child support for the child.

Hearings were held on August 22, 2013, and January 28, 2014. The circuit court found that based on Bagley v. Williamson, 101 Ark.App. 1, 269 S.W.3d 837 (2007), the child C.M., who was already an adult, was owed a continued duty of support because he lived with his mother. The resulting order was filed on February 18, 2014, and appellant filed a timely notice of appeal on March 18, 2014, and an amended notice of appeal on March 26, 2014.

II. Standard of Review

The standard of review for an appeal of a child-support order is de novo on the record, and ...


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