Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ellis v. Ellis

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

December 6, 2017

MIKE ELLIS APPELLANT/CROSS APPELLEE
v.
DENEE ELLIS APPELLEE/CROSS APPELLANT

         APPEAL FROM THE RANDOLPH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 61DR-09-141] HONORABLE PHILIP SMITH, JUDGE.

          M. Joseph Grider, for appellant/cross-appellee.

          Womack Phelps Puryear Mayfield & McNeil, P.A., by: Tom D. Womack and Ryan M. Wilson, for appellee/cross-appellant.

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, JUDGE.

         This is an appeal of a domestic-relations case involving Denee Ellis and Mike Ellis. Both Mike and Denee appeal the circuit court's orders, and their arguments primarily relate to the division of property and Mike's child-support obligation. Mike also challenges the circuit court's refusal to hold Denee in contempt of court. After considering the merits of the appeal, we affirm in part and reverse and remand in part on direct appeal and reverse and remand on cross-appeal.

         I. Background

         Denee and Mike married in November 1996, and had two children during their marriage. Mike is a farmer, and Denee is a teacher. In July 2009, Mike filed a complaint for divorce from Denee. He later amended his complaint and requested an unequal division of the marital property. Denee disputed Mike's entitlement to an unequal division of the marital property.

         The circuit court held a bench trial over the course of seven days in 2011. The majority of the trial testimony pertained to the disposition of property. At issue was the disposition of the parties' two houses-one on Surridge Road and one on Brandi Trail. Additionally, the circuit court was tasked with dividing items of personal property including household goods and vehicles. Most significantly, the circuit court was required to dispose of entities that managed farm land and equipment-specifically Ellis Corner Farm, LP (Ellis Corner), Honeybaby Partnership (Honeybaby), and Sweetie Pie Partnership (Sweetie Pie).

         Honeybaby and Sweetie Pie are marital property subject to division. The parties contest whether any portion of Ellis Corner is marital property. During Denee and Mike's marriage, Mike's parents gifted 52 percent of Ellis Corner to Mike and 48 percent of Ellis Corner to his brother Danny. Later, Danny transferred his 48 percent share of Ellis Corner to Mike, and Mike and Denee cosigned a loan to pay Danny. Mike asserted the gift from his parents of 52 percent of Ellis Corner was his nonmarital property, and Denee did not challenge this. However, the parties dispute whether any of the 48 percent share of Ellis Corner acquired during the marriage was marital property subject to division.

         Ultimately, the circuit court adjudicated the issues in this case in a piecemeal fashion. The first order entered by the circuit court was a decree of divorce in June 2011. Later, in August 2011, the circuit court entered an order entitled "Visitation Order" setting out Mike's visitation schedule with the two minor children. The next order entered by the circuit court that is pertinent to our review is an order to show cause filed in March 2012 in response to Mike's motion for contempt in which he accused Denee of lying under oath.

         Time passed, and in March 2014, more than two and a half years after the trial had concluded, the circuit court circulated a memorandum of decision wherein it ordered that Denee would convey all her interest in the marital property relating to the farming operations to Mike in exchange for a sum of money. The circuit court did not determine the amount of money Mike owed Denee to account for her marital interest in the farming operations. Instead, it left a blank space in the memorandum of decision and indicated that it needed assistance from the parties to determine the amount Mike owed Denee.

         Then, in February 2015, three and a half years after the trial, the circuit court entered an order that purported to equally divide the parties' property and set Mike's child-support obligation. The circuit court found Mike's 52 percent share of Ellis Corner that he received as a gift from his parents was his nonmarital property. However, it found the 48 percent share of Ellis Corner he acquired during the marriage was marital property subject to division. The circuit court awarded Mike all interest in Ellis Corner, Honeybaby, and Sweetie Pie and ordered Mike to pay Denee $316, 511.50 for her marital share of these entities. In addition, the circuit court awarded Mike the house on Surridge Road and Denee the house on Brandi Trail and found that each party would have the household furnishings, equipment, and vehicles in their possession.

         The court entered another order in April 2015 that included a Rule 54(b) certificate and attempted to fully and finally resolve all pending issues before the court. Ark. R. Civ. P. 54(b) (2016). Subsequently, both Mike and Denee appealed. Our court dismissed the first appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Ellis v. Ellis, 2016 Ark.App. 411, 501 S.W.3d 387. In our opinion, we acknowledged that the circuit court failed to adjudicate custody and to formally rule on Mike's motion for contempt. The circuit court resolved these issues in an order entered in November 2016. It adjudicated custody in favor of Denee and denied Mike's motion for contempt. Once again, Mike timely appealed, and Denee timely cross-appealed.

         II. Issues on Appeal

         On direct appeal, Mike raises nine issues. He argues the circuit court erred by (1) finding his purchase of Danny's 48 percent share of Ellis Corner was marital property; (2) finding that 52 percent of the acquired 48 percent share of Ellis corner was marital property; (3) equally dividing the marital property; (4) determining that the Jeep Liberty was a marital asset; (5) failing to give him credit for house payments he made on the Brandi Trail property after the entry of the divorce decree; (6) failing to divide Denee's retirement benefits; (7) failing to divide the parties' household goods and furnishings; (8) refusing to hold Denee in contempt of court; and (9) improperly calculating prospective and retroactive child support.

         Denee raises two issues in her cross-appeal. She contends that the circuit court erred (1) in its calculation of the value of the property the parties owned on Surridge Road and (2) in awarding Mike credit against child-support arrearages.

         III. Standard of Review

         Our court reviews divorce cases de novo on appeal. Moore v. Moore, 2016 Ark. 105, 486 S.W.3d 766. With respect to division of property, a circuit court's findings of fact should be affirmed unless they are clearly erroneous or clearly against the preponderance of the evidence. Id. Our court applies the same standard when analyzing the propriety of a child-support order and will not reverse a finding of fact by the circuit court unless it is clearly erroneous. Wright v. Wright, 2010 Ark.App. 250, 377 S.W.3d 369. When considering the contempt issue, we limit our review to whether there has been an abuse of discretion. Warren v. Robinson, 288 Ark. 249, 704 S.W.2d 614 (1986).

         IV. Mike's Direct Appeal

         A. Whether the 48 Percent Share of Ellis Corner Was Marital Property

         Mike unsuccessfully argued at trial that the 48 percent share of Ellis Corner that was purchased from his brother Danny was his nonmarital property. Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-12-315(b) (Repl. 2015) defines marital property as "all property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage." There is a presumption that all property acquired during a marriage is marital property. McKay v. McKay, 340 Ark. 171, 8 S.W.3d 525 (2000). Once one party has shown that property was acquired during the marriage, the burden shifts to the other ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.