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Hortelano v. Hortelano

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

February 22, 2017



          Hale & Young, P.L.L.C., by: Milas H. Hale III; and Robert S. Tschiemer, for appellant.

          Morris W. Thompson Law Firm, P.A., by: Morris Thompson; and Brett D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson, for appellee.

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge

         Hector Hortelano appeals the divorce decree from his former wife, Laura Hortelano, issued by the Pulaski County Circuit Court. On appeal, Hector argues that the circuit court erred in awarding joint legal custody to the parties with Laura being the primary custodial parent. We affirm.

         On July 29, 2010, Hector filed a divorce complaint against Laura. He asserted that both he and Laura were fit and proper parents and asked the court to award joint custody of their children, I.H. and A.H., with him being the primary custodial parent. Laura filed a counterclaim for divorce. She also asked for joint custody; however, she requested that she be the primary custodial parent. On September 22, 2010, the court entered an agreed temporary order granting joint custody with Hector being the primary custodial parent and Laura having visitation every other weekend and every Wednesday after school.

         On March 25, 2011, following a hearing, the court entered a temporary order stating that "the parties shall have joint custody of the minor children with neither party designated as the primary custodial parent." The court ordered the same visitation schedule as contained in the September 2010 agreed order. The court further noted that "neither party shall have members of the opposite sex overnight with them when they have children with them unless they are related or married to that person."

         On August 19 and August 21, 2014, the court held a final divorce hearing. At the hearing, Hector testified that Laura left him and the children on July 26, 2010, and that he then filed for a divorce. He denied kicking Laura out of their home, and when asked whether he changed the door lock in the days before Laura left, he stated that he changed the lock because their daughter had broken it. He noted that Laura had an affair with his brother and that angered him, but he denied kicking her out as result of the affair. He explained that since Laura left, he had been the primary caregiver of the children and had transported them to and from school every day. He also stated that he had paid for their tuition to private school, school supplies, clothes, and karate lessons. When asked whether I.H., their then eleven-year-old daughter, slept in his bed at night, Hector stated that she only slept with him when she had nightmares or during bad weather.

         Laura testified that she began having a sexual relationship with Hector when she was thirteen years old. She stated that when they met, Hector told her that he was seventeen years old, but she later discovered he was twenty-seven. She explained that when she was thirteen, she and Hector traveled to Mexico, and they later married there when she was fourteen. She testified that he had limited her contact with her family while they were in Mexico. They returned to the United States in 2005 and remarried for Hector's immigration status.

         Laura testified that during the marriage, she was the primary caregiver for the children and that Hector worked long hours. She further testified that she and Hector fought frequently over his brother's living with them. Laura did not like his brother's living with them because they had a two-bedroom trailer, and the children had to sleep with her and Hector. She stated that Hector had kicked her out of the house several times as a result of the fights. She admitted that she had an affair with Hector's brother and stated that she told Hector about it in May 2010. Hector then tried to kick her out, but she refused to leave the children. She stated that in July 2010, he changed the locks on the trailer and denied her entry. Laura then lived in her car before moving in with a male coworker. She denied having a romantic relationship with the coworker but stated that he had raped her, though she never filed charges.[1] She testified that Hector had control over her financial and personal records; so she had nothing when he kicked her out. She stated that she tried to give Hector money to help with the children's needs but he refused it.

         As to her current living situation, Laura testified that she lives with her boyfriend, Addias Lopez, in a two-bedroom trailer in Hot Springs and that they have two children together. She explained that they have lived together since 2011 and that they plan to marry when her divorce from Hector is final. She testified that Adidas has no criminal history but he does not have a legal immigration status. She noted that she is not employed but is enrolled as a full-time student at National Park Community College. She hopes to become a registered nurse. Laura testified that she called child-protective services about I.H. sleeping in Hector's bed every night, but the investigation was closed as unsubstantiated.

         Laura's mother, Maria Alvarez, testified that Hector and Laura began having a sexual relationship when Laura was thirteen years old and Hector was twenty-seven years old and that she disapproved of the relationship. She further testified that Hector kidnapped Laura and took her to Mexico. She explained that she contacted the police, but the police told her they could do nothing since Laura had left the county. She eventually located a phone number for Hector and Laura and made contact with them, but Laura refused to return to the United States until her mother stopped the kidnapping investigation and gave her permission to marry Hector. She stated that either she or her husband had given them permission to marry.

         Alvarez testified that when Hector and Laura returned to the United States, Laura acted as the primary caregiver for the children and that Hector limited her time away from their house as well as her communication with others. She explained that Hector and Laura had arguments about Hector's brother living with them and that Hector had kicked Laura out of the house on several occasions. As to Laura leaving Hector and the children in July 2010, Alvarez testified that Hector had kicked Laura out of the house. She also testified that I.H. continues to sleep in Hector's bed and that concerned her.

         Hector and Laura's daughter, I.H., then testified that she sleeps with her father and brother every night. When asked with whom she wanted to ...

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