APPEAL FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. No. 26DR-12-359. HONORABLE VICKI SHAW COOK, JUDGE.
Steven Lynn Williams, Pro se appellant.
Greg L. Mitchell, for appellee.
LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge. ABRAMSON and KINARD, JJ., agree.
LARRY D. VAUGHT, Judge
Appellant Steven Lynn Williams appeals the Garland County Circuit Court's order holding him in contempt for failure to pay child support. Appellant argues that the circuit court erred in failing to dismiss ap穙 Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement's (OCSE) motion for citation and erred in finding him in contempt. We reverse the circuit court's contempt order.
On March 18, 2014, OCSE filed a motion for citation against Williams, alleging that on May 23, 2012, a Florida child-support order against Williams had been properly registered in Arkansas, the Florida order had an accrued arrearage in the amount of $45,298.01, Williams had willfully refused to comply with the order, and Williams should be held in contempt. OCSE sought an order jailing Williams for contempt and an order of immediate withholding for current support, arrearages, and health-care insurance coverage. Williams, appearing pro se, filed a motion to dismiss on May 2, 2014. On June 6, 2014, he filed an answer. On June 16, 2014, he filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Williams requested a hearing on his motions to dismiss, which was set for June 25, 2014, and was later reset for July 23, 2014. The order made clear that the July 23, 2014 hearing would be on Williams's motions to dismiss.
On July 23, 2014, the parties appeared for the hearing. At the outset, OCSE stated that the underlying motion for contempt was ripe to be heard that day. Williams objected, stating that the hearing was set on his motions to dismiss. The court overruled his objection, stating that " this is the final hearing today." Williams made it clear that he did not have witnesses to present on the underlying contempt charge because he was prepared to discuss only his motions.
OCSE called Williams as its own witness. He admitted that there was a Florida child-support judgment against him. He admitted that he had attempted to appeal the registration of the Florida judgment in Arkansas but that appeal had been dismissed. However, when asked if he had made any payments on the Florida judgment, Williams did not answer. Instead, he repeatedly stated that OCSE had the burden of proving nonpayment. After two unsuccessful attempts to get Williams to admit that he had made no payments toward the Florida judgment since it had been registered in Arkansas, the attorney for OCSE simply told the court that he had not. The attorney stated that the judgment was for $45,298.01 when it was registered in 2012 and that " Florida is a state that charges interest so I'm sure it's up to seventy-five grand or more by now."
The court then gave Williams an opportunity to present his case. He first argued that the only issue before the court at the hearing that day was his motions to dismiss. The court disagreed, saying they were there on his motions and the underlying contempt issue. When Williams attempted to argue that the case should be dismissed because OCSE had failed to state a claim, the court responded, " And I denied that motion."
The court then found Williams in contempt for failure to pay child support and ordered that he be held in custody until he paid $5,000 toward the arrearage. As he was being taken from the courtroom, Williams attempted to ...