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Horton v. Parrish

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

May 6, 2015



Worsham Law Firm, P.A., by: Richard E. Worsham, for appellant.

Susan M.J. Wakefield, for appellee.



Page 719


Appellant Brandi Horton appeals from the July 10 and July 30, 2014 orders filed by the Franklin County Circuit Court in favor of appellee, Shawn Ray Parrish. On appeal, appellant's sole contention is that the trial court erred in modifying the divorce decree and awarding appellee custody of the parties' minor children against their best interest. We affirm.

Parrish and Horton were divorced in June 2010. They had four children together, D.P., M.P., K.P., and G.P. The June 8, 2010 divorce decree specifically awarded joint custody of the children " with the Defendant Brandi [Horton] being the primary custodian with reasonable final authority over decisions regarding the children except the primary residence of the children and school enrollment of the children which shall be by unanimous consent of the Parties or order of this Court." The trial court ordered that neither party pay child support and that actual physical custody of the children alternate weekly or as they may agree. If there was a dispute as to holidays or other special occasions, the trial court ordered that the standard order for visitation would apply. Subsequently, on June 23, 2010, the trial court filed a nunc pro tunc order requiring the children to be enrolled in the Alma School

Page 720

District until graduation or until a court order directs otherwise.

Horton filed a petition for modification of custody on April 10, 2012. In her petition, she alleged that she was seeking modification to allow her to babysit the children when Parrish was working, that Parrish had employed at least nine different babysitters during the last year and a half, that Parrish refused to provide her contact information for each babysitter, and that the trial court should require the parties to agree to each non-immediate family-member babysitter. Parrish filed his answer on April 18, 2012, and filed a counterclaim for contempt and a counter-motion to change custody. Parrish alleged that Horton continually made late payments on the vehicle she was awarded in the decree, causing his credit rating to be adversely affected. Additionally, he alleged that there was a material change in circumstances, that it was in the best interest of the children that he receive full custody with Horton receiving restricted visitation, and that Horton should be required to pay child support.

Horton filed an answer to Parrish's countermotion on April 20, 2012, and an amended petition for modification of custody on May 13, 2013. In her amended petition, she alleged that Parrish had failed to inform her of the children's medical and school issues when they were in his custody; that Parrish had placed the children in an unsafe environment with " guns and knives lying around when the youngest children were not properly supervised" ; and that a material change in circumstances had occurred which required the children to be placed in her custody with Parrish paying child support. Parrish filed his response on May 16, 2013, requesting the dismissal and denial of the amended petition.

A two-day trial was held on October 8, 2013, and May 27, 2014, and the parties had several witnesses testify on their behalf. Gregory Roberts testified that he was a private professional, licensed counselor. On October 8, 2013, he testified that he had seen D.P. five times and had two family sessions with the parents. Horton brought D.P. to him because she found him to be defiant with her and she was having problems controlling him. He opined that D.P. was experiencing a " tic disorder" and attributed it to the dysfunction of the joint-custody arrangement. He further explained that he thought D.P. felt that he was required to have some loyalty for one parent over another and that it was very unhealthy for D.P. As part of the disorder, Roberts testified that D.P. was " pulling his hair out and pulling his fingernails nearly off," indicating the amount of stress that D.P. was experiencing. He further opined that D.P. did not want to decide who he was going to be loyal to and that he felt pressure from Parrish to do so, either directly or inadvertently.

Roberts opined that he did not think joint custody was in the best interest of D.P. and expressed concerns about the children's placement in Parrish's custody. He stated that he was concerned with the lack of communication Parrish had with Horton. However, he did not express the same concerns about placing the children in Horton's custody. After the trial court questioned Roberts regarding whether any of the other children exhibited any problems, Roberts answered that he was not aware of any issues or disorders with the other children. On the second day of the trial, Roberts ...

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