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Lamb v. Rodriguez

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

April 15, 2015



Huffman Butler PLLC, by: Bryan R. Huffman; and Bugeja Law Firm, by: Joshua W. Bugeja, for appellant.

Robertson, Beasley, Shipley & Redd, PLLC, by: Robert Kelly, for appellee.


Appellant Mark Lamb appeals from a July 14, 2014 order filed by the Sebastian County Circuit Court in favor of appellee Angela Lamb Rodriguez. On appeal, appellant contends that (1) the trial court committed reversible error when it interpreted the divorce decree as granting a specific percentage of appellant's military retirement and awarded appellee a judgment for such increases and (2) that the trial court failed to properly consider appellant's defenses in making its award of judgment. We affirm.

Lamb and Rodriguez were previously married on February 9, 1987, and then separated on or about February 1, 2004. After Rodriguez filed a complaint for divorce, Lamb and Rodriguez entered into a property-settlement agreement ("PSA") that was filed on September 27, 2004. In relevant part, the PSA provides that "Husband agrees that Wife is entitled to and is to receive one-half (1/2) of his military retirement pay as marital property." Subsequently, a divorce decree, incorporating the PSA, was filed on September 27, 2004. The divorce decree specifically stated in relevant part,

6. That the parties have entered into a Property Settlement Agreement which forever settles the respective rights and claims of each party in and to property and other matters, which agreement is filed herein and incorporated into this Decree by reference.
7.That the Court further finds that the terms and provisions of such agreement are in all respects fair and equitable, and that the agreement should be approved and confirmed.
8. That Defendant's net military retirement pay is $1, 351.00 per month, and that Plaintiff is entitled to and is to receive from the Defendant one/half (1/2) of his disposable military retirement pay as her share of the marital property for the years during their marriage pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 1408. That the amount of Defendant's disposable military retirement pay to which Plaintiff is entitled as marital property is $ 574.00 per month.

. . . .

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Defendant pay to Plaintiff as marital property one-half (1/2) of his disposable military retirement pay. . . . .
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the Property Settlement Agreement referred to herein be, and the same is, hereby approved and confirmed in all things, and the provisions of the agreement shall have the same force and effect as this decree and shall be enforced by further orders of the Court upon the petition of either party upon the same basis as if such provision had been promulgated and ordered by the Court.

On March 11, 2013, Rodriguez filed a motion to enforce the PSA and motion to modify the decree. She alleged that Lamb had refused to pay the total amount of her one-half share of his military-retirement pay as required by the PSA and decree. She further alleged that Lamb had contacted the Department of Finance and Accounting Services, which processes military-retirement pay, and informed it that Rodriguez was entitled to only $574 per month, excluding any cost-of-living adjustments. Therefore, Rodriguez alleged that she had not received any cost-of-living adjustments since the decree, and she alleged that she was entitled to a judgment for the difference between what she was entitled to under the PSA and decree, that the decree should be modified to reflect that she was entitled to receive the cost-of-living adjustments, and that she was entitled to costs and attorney's fees.

Lamb filed an answer on April 12, 2013, denying that Rodriguez was entitled to the additional payments and to have the decree modified. On October 4, 2013, Lamb filed an amended answer and counterclaim. In his answer, he pleaded the following affirmative defenses: accord and satisfaction, laches, estoppel, statute of limitation, statute of frauds, unclean hands, unconscionability, lack of consideration, and waiver. In his counterclaim, Lamb alleged that Rodriguez owed him for past child support for the time he cared for their child full-time while still paying the full amount of child support or alternatively, that the cost-of-living adjustment payments should be offset with these incorrect child-support payments. Rodriguez filed an answer generally denying these allegations on October 21, 2013.

At a June 10, 2014 hearing, the parties agreed that they would "forgo testimony in this matter" and would provide written briefs for the trial court. After the parties filed posttrial briefs for the trial court's consideration, the trial court issued a letter ruling that was incorporated into a subsequent order filed on July 14, 2014. In its order, the trial court found that it had jurisdiction to construe, clarify, and enforce the parties' PSA, which was incorporated into the divorce decree. It further found that the PSA provided that a specific percentage of Lamb's military-retirement pay was to be distributed to Rodriguez and that the net amount should have increased as Lamb's pay increased over time. Therefore, Lamb was ordered to pay $30, 599 in past payments, to pay one-half of his military-retirement pay prospectively, and to pay attorney's fees in the amount of $1, 500.

The order did not, however, make any specific findings regarding Lamb's affirmative defenses or counterclaim. Lamb filed a motion for clarification of judgment on July 15, 2014, requesting the court to specifically address his affirmative defenses and counterclaim, and Rodriguez filed a response requesting the trial court to deny this motion on July 23, 2014. The trial court filed an order denying Lamb's motion on August 4, 2014, specifically denying the motion to the extent the motion was filed pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a) and (b). Subsequently, Lamb filed a timely notice of appeal on August 13, ...

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