FROM THE PHILLIPS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 54DR-05-320]
HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER W. MORLEDGE, JUDGE
D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson and
Benson Law Firm, P.A., by: King Benson, for appellant.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge
appeal arises from the Phillips County Circuit Court's
denial of appellant Marti Johnson's request to increase
her ex-husband appellee William Young's child-support
payments. Johnson argues that the circuit court erred in not
increasing Young's child-support payments by not using
the correct method to calculate Young's income and in not
finding a material change of circumstances. We agree and
reverse and remand for further proceedings.
parties divorced in December 2005; under the terms of their
settlement agreement, Johnson was given primary custody of
their two minor children, Young was ordered to pay child
support of $800 per month, and Johnson and Young were ordered
to equally divide the children's tuition and daycare
expenses. On June 16, 2014, Johnson filed a petition to
change venue, and for contempt and modification of the
previous order against Young. Johnson contended that the
children resided with her in Paragould and the circuit court
of Greene County was the most convenient forum; that she had
repeatedly been required to bring Young to court because of
child-support issues and that he should be found in contempt
and punished accordingly; and that there had been a material
change warranting an increase in child support. Young
responded with a motion to dismiss.
circuit court denied a change of venue in an order entered on
February 11, 2015. An order entered on October 28, 2015,
required Young to pay $399 to bring his obligations for
medical bills current, and to reimburse Johnson $117 for one
of their daughter's braces. It also found Young in
contempt for failure to pay financial obligations of his
children. The court allowed Johnson to claim both children
for tax purposes beginning with the 2015 tax year and also
ordered Young to pay Johnson $4, 500 for attorney's fees
and costs. The court denied Johnson's request for an
increase in child support without comment or explanation.
filed her notice of appeal on November 9, 2015. Young filed a
notice of cross-appeal as to the $4, 500 attorney's fees
on November 10, 2015, but has not filed a brief in this
appeal. Young's cross-appeal is therefore rendered moot.
On appeal, Johnson contends that (1) the court did not use
the correct method to calculate Young's income and (2)
the court clearly erred in not modifying Young's
child-support obligation as there was a material change in
review child-support cases de novo on the record, but we will
not reverse the trial court's findings of fact unless
they are clearly erroneous. Bass v. Bass, 2011
Ark.App. 753, 387 S.W.3d 218. We have further stated that a
circuit court's finding is clearly erroneous when,
despite supporting evidence in the record, the appellate
court viewing all of the evidence is left with a definite and
firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.
Bethany v. Jones, 2011 Ark. 67, 378 S.W.3d 731.
child-support scheme in Arkansas is governed by Arkansas
Supreme Court Administrative Order Number 10
("Administrative Order No. 10"), which includes a
family support chart that indicates the amount of support
due, depending upon the payor's income. Id. A
trial court's order awarding child support must recite
the amount of support required by the chart and recite
whether the court deviated from that amount. Id. It
is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support
calculated pursuant to the chart is the appropriate amount.
Id. If the court deviates from the chart amount, it
must include specific written findings stating why, after
consideration of all relevant factors including the best
interest of the child, the amount is unjust or inappropriate.
testified at the hearing that he made $6, 000 per month. His
affidavit of financial means reflects that number, but he
includes a $1, 225 rent deduction and an $800 deduction for
child support for his and Johnson's minor children;
neither of these deductions is proper under Administrative
Order Number 10. See Ark. Sup. Ct. Admin. Order No.
10 (II). There was some discrepancy
in testimony as to whether Young was self-employed. It was
undisputed that Young is a partner in two partnerships and
that he pays self-employment taxes based on his income from
the partnerships, in which he owns a 20 percent interest.
Young contends that he is unaware of what his tax records
reflect but that he "just signs them." Moreover,
Young testified that $20, 000 was deposited in his account to
pay for taxes.
father, Ned Young, testified that his son is paid $72, 000
pretax which is $6, 000 a month, and that his
"guaranteed payment is $6, 000." Ned Young also
testified that the company pays his son's child support
out of his check. In matters of child support, the definition
of income is intentionally broad and designed to encompass
the widest range of potential income sources for the support
of minor children. Montgomery v. Bolton, 349 Ark.
460, 79 S.W.3d 354 (2002); Stuart v. Stuart, 99
Ark.App. 358, 260 S.W.3d 740 (2007).
circuit court did not use the correct method to calculate
Young's income. In determining an appropriate amount of
child support, it is undisputed that courts are to refer to
the family support chart contained in Administrative Order
No. 10, which provides a means of calculating child support
based on the payor's net income. Cowell v. Long,
2013 Ark.App. 311. Young provided no W-2s; he has a
partnership interest in the family businesses, pays
self-employment taxes, and receives additional income of $20,
000 to pay those taxes; therefore, his income for child
support should have been determined based on the last two
years' federal and state income tax returns. Pursuant to
Administrative Order No. 10(III)(c), for self-employed
payors, the circuit court should first consider the
payor's tax returns. See Tucker v. Office of Child
Support Enf't, 368 Ark. 481, 247 S.W.3d 485 (2007).
hearing, Young's tax returns for 2012, 2013, and 2014
were introduced into evidence. The tax returns show that
Young is a 20 percent partner in two family-owned businesses,
Young and Company, and Young's Custom Services, LLC. Both
companies are agriculture-related enterprises involving
farming and irrigation-well drilling. In Arkansas, a partner
may be treated as a self-employed payor for purposes of
Administrative Order No. 10. See Brown v. Brown, 373
Ark. 333, 338-39, 284 S.W.3d 17, 21-22 (2008) (treating a
partner as a self-employed payor under Administrative Order
No. 10). Young's 2012 tax returns
showed that his adjusted gross income was $177, 613, his
self-employment tax was $13, 806, and his federal taxes
totaled $42, 665. His 2013 tax returns showed that his
adjusted gross income was $228, 643, his self-employment tax
was $19, 010, and his total federal tax liability was $62,
176. His 2014 tax returns reflected that his adjusted gross
income was $188, 166, ...