FROM THE RANDOLPH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 61DR-09-141]
HONORABLE PHILIP SMITH, JUDGE.
Joseph Grider, for appellant/cross-appellee.
Phelps Puryear Mayfield & McNeil, P.A., by: Tom D. Womack
and Ryan M. Wilson, for appellee/cross-appellant.
J. GLADWIN, JUDGE.
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Issues on Appeal
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.
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.
Standard of Review
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).
Mike's Direct Appeal
Whether the 48 Percent Share of Ellis Corner Was Marital
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 ...