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Hays v. Hays

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

September 13, 2017



          Satterfield Law Firm, by: Cynthia S. Moody, for appellant.

          Debra J. Reece, for appellee.

          Virden and Brown, JJ., agree.

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Judge

         The Faulkner County Circuit Court issued a divorce decree on October 21, 2016, denying permanent alimony to appellant Melissa Hundley Hays. On appeal, Melissa argues that the trial court abused its discretion by applying a public-policy argument to deny her request for permanent alimony. We affirm.

         Appellee Jason Lee Hays and Melissa married on April 26, 2009, and no children were born of the marriage. Jason filed for divorce on March 17, 2016, and Melissa counterclaimed for separate maintenance, alleging that she was disabled, unable to work, and had not worked during their marriage. Melissa sought temporary and permanent alimony, and she later amended her counterclaim to ask for a divorce. At the divorce trial, the parties stipulated that Melissa would be granted the divorce on her amended counterclaim, and Jason waived corroboration of grounds. The parties further stipulated that the home in which they had lived was Melissa's premarital property.

         Janet Lee Hundley, Melissa's mother, testified that her daughter is thirty-six years old and previously had only two short-term jobs, at Walmart and a veterinarian's clinic, but she had not worked since she married Jason. Ms. Hundley said that Melissa and Jason had been together for seventeen years but had been married for only seven years. She said that Melissa is a visual learner and has an "information processing malfunction." She said that when Melissa gets upset or gets "thrown" about something, she "just shuts down. She cannot function. She suffers from severe anxiety." She said that Jason knew about Melissa's disabilities, and she had explained to him that when Melissa mixes up her sentences, it is because of her learning style. She said that Melissa had done some light filing and copying under supervision for the family firm; however, she said that these skills would not translate into real-world jobs.

         Ms. Hundley said that Melissa does not drink but that Jason does. Ms. Hundley said that Melissa takes medication for anxiety and that there were times, when Melissa and Jason were fighting, that she believed Melissa had overmedicated herself. She claimed that she had not seen this since Melissa and Jason had separated.

         Ms. Hundley said that Jason had a new vehicle that he had purchased by trading in a truck that had been a gift to Melissa from her and her husband. She also described the condition of Melissa's home when Jason left: it had paint all over the ceiling and carpet where Jason had begun to paint; there were holes in the wall; the cabinet doors were loose; electrical covers were broken; the dishwasher had no door; and there was only cold water connected to the washer.

         On cross-examination, Ms. Hundley said that Melissa could drive and that she had passed a driver's test when she was seventeen. Melissa had gone to college for a year but could not make her "grades, " even with her mother's tutoring. Ms. Hundley had not witnessed Melissa overmedicating since her separation from Jason, but she admitted that she had not been with Melissa all the time. She also said that Jason had emailed her about concerns he had regarding Melissa's overmedication. Jason had specifically asked Ms. Hundley to help him with this more than once. However, she said that she does not believe Melissa has a problem overusing prescription medications anymore. She admitted to having asked Jason in a 2015 email to hide Melissa's pills.

         Ms. Hundley said that Jason had paid the mortgage payments on Melissa's house but had not kept the house in good repair. She also said that because of her health issues, Melissa spent her time playing video games, watching movies, and cleaning her house. She thought Melissa spent two or three hours per day playing video games. She said that Melissa drove her car for grocery shopping, getting to Little Rock, or going to the doctor. She said that she trusted Melissa to deal with her doctors and to take her medications. She said that Jason would not go to couple's counseling with Melissa in 2014, when Jason had filed for divorce the first time. After they had reconciled, Jason promised to be calmer with Melissa, and Melissa promised to find a job. She said that she had helped Melissa fill out application forms online, but Melissa could not find a job. She also had helped Melissa fill out a Social Security disability application, but Melissa's application was denied.

         Jason testified that he had paid the mortgage on the house when he was living with Melissa. He also admitted that he had caused the damage to the home depicted in photographs presented as evidence. He said that he knew of Melissa's information-processing problem and had seen the effects of it. He said that when they had a conversation about uncomfortable things, Melissa would shut down. He said that Melissa has trouble getting her point across and she mixes her words up in her sentences. He claimed that Melissa had always had these problems but that they had worsened.

         Before he married Melissa in 2009, he had been with her for twelve years. He was aware of her two small jobs and that they had not lasted. He said that Melissa had agreed to get a job after they married in 2009. However, from the time they were married, Melissa had never worked. He said that he thought Melissa could be a stocker at Kroger and that she wanted a job where she did not have to ...

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