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Honeycutt v. Honeycutt

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

March 1, 2017

DORIS JEAN HONEYCUTT APPELLANT
v.
MICHAEL WAYNE HONEYCUTT APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26DR-12-782-III] HONORABLE LYNN WILLIAMS, JUDGE

          The Applegate Firm, PLLC, by: Ryan J. Applegate, for appellant.

          No response.

          RITA W. GRUBER, Chief Judge.

         Doris 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.[1] We affirm as modified in this opinion.

         The 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.

         On 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.

         Ms. 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.

         By 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 Divorce Decree.
[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.

         The 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, 2016.

         I. Whether the Trial Court Erred in Allowing Mr. Honeycutt to Orally Amend his Pleadings ...


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