FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26DR-12-782-III]
HONORABLE LYNN WILLIAMS, JUDGE
Applegate Firm, PLLC, by: Ryan J. Applegate, for appellant.
W. GRUBER, Chief Judge.
Jean Honeycutt brings this appeal from the Circuit Court of
Garland County's March 14, 2016 order modifying the
amount of alimony she was awarded in a divorce decree entered
on December 20, 2013. She contends that the trial court erred
in (1) allowing Michael Wayne Honeycutt to orally amend his
pleadings at the hearing on his petition to modify, (2)
reducing his monthly alimony obligation, and (3) improperly
setting off arrearages. We affirm as modified in this opinion.
parties' decree of divorce was entered on December 20,
2013. In Paragraph 3, the court ordered Mr. Honeycutt to pay
monthly alimony of $1700 beginning on January 1, 2014, and
ordered Ms. Honeycutt to "apply for social security
disability and . . . keep [Mr. Honeycutt] informed of the
status of the application at all times." Elsewhere in
the decree, the parties were ordered to equally split a 2012
tax refund if there should be one. The decree also reflected
Mr. Honeycutt's agreement to pay the IRS if the parties
owed any amount, pay all debts associated with the
parties' Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and continue providing
medical insurance for Ms. Honeycutt "so long as COBRA
continues." The parties agreed to execute documents
necessary for transferring titles of vehicles, boats,
4-wheelers, and trailers that were divided between them. Mr.
Honeycutt was awarded his 401(k) account.
October 5, 2015, Mr. Honeycutt filed a petition to modify
alimony, to compel, and for other relief He alleged that he
had faithfully paid alimony until the time of "a
significant change of circumstances" in his income. In
the petition, he stated that he had received his last
paycheck on August 31, 2015; he had been notified on
September 8, 2015, that he would be laid off; and, through no
fault of his own, he would no longer be receiving income from
his current job. Stating that he was currently seeking new
employment and anticipated finding employment by the time of
a court hearing, he sought a modification of alimony based on
his recent unemployment. He acknowledged his responsibility
to make Ms. Honeycutt's $247.86 insurance payments each
month. He then stated that he had been left with no available
funds to pay the insurance, and had not paid, because of her
"refusal to cooperate in completing the income tax
return in a timely fashion" and because he "had to
pay for a round-trip airline ticket to come to America [from
Columbia] to straighten out the taxes." Therefore, he
asked the court to find "that the extraordinary expense
of round-trip airfare to resolve the taxes should relieve him
of responsibility for the insurance for the month of
August." Finally, he asked that Ms. Honeycutt be ordered
to immediately execute boat titles in compliance with the
divorce decree, alleging that she had refused to do so
despite repeated demands.
Honeycutt responded to the petition and filed a motion for
contempt and order to show cause based on Mr. Honeycutt's
failure to make any alimony payments since August 2015. On
February 18, 2016, the trial court took the parties'
testimony at a hearing on all outstanding motions.
written order of March 10, 2016, the court found that Mr.
Honeycutt had lost both his previous employment as an
international oil-rig electrician and his $168, 000 annual
income due to a worldwide economic collapse in the
oil-drilling industry; that he had made a good-faith effort
to regain employment; that he had married a missionary from
Columbia and had resided there for a lengthy period of time;
that with his current income of almost zero, he was
supporting himself and his family through odd jobs,
missionary charity, and his family's charity; and that
his IRA's market value was between $200, 000 and $280,
000. The court also found that
since the entry of the Divorce Decree, . . . [Ms. Honeycutt]
has inherited her father's home and lives with other
family members who share the cost of living. The Court
further finds that she receives her healthcare through
Arkansas' Private Option and that she has failed to apply
for social security disability benefits, as promised in the
[Ms. Honeycutt] has failed to cooperate with the joint filing
of the couple's tax return and has failed to timely
provide information to [Mr. Honeycutt] and failed to timely
provide titles, as required by the Divorce Decree.
[T]hese failures on behalf of [Ms. Honeycutt] have caused
[Mr. Honeycutt] to expend additional attorney's fees and
transportation cost for travel from Columbia to the United
States. The attorney's fees were proven to be $2500 and
the travel cost $2600.
court determined on the basis of these findings that a
substantial change in circumstances had occurred, and it
reduced Mr. Honeycutt's alimony payments from $1700 a
month to $800. The court also relieved Mr. Honeycutt of
responsibility thereafter to pay funds for Ms.
Honeycutt's healthcare. Finding that Ms. Honeycutt was in
no position to compensate Mr. Honeycutt for his
attorney's fees and travel costs, the court set aside any
arrearage that he might owe her and ordered Mr. Honeycutt to
begin making monthly alimony payments of $800 on April 1,
Whether the Trial Court Erred in Allowing Mr. Honeycutt
to Orally Amend his Pleadings ...