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.

Buckingham v. Gochnauer

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

December 6, 2017

WILLIAM A. BUCKINGHAM, JR. APPELLANT
v.
CLARISSA GOCHNAUER (FORMERLY BUCKINGHAM) APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SEVENTEENTH DIVISION [NO. 60DR-09-31] HONORABLE MACKIE M. PIERCE, JUDGE.

          Tripcony, May & Associates, by: James L. Tripcony, for appellant.

          Wright Law Firm, by: Victor D. "Trey" Wright III, for appellee.

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, JUDGE.

         Appellee Clarissa Gochnauer and appellant William (Bill) A. Buckingham, Jr., filed competing motions for summary judgment, and the Pulaski County Circuit Court granted Clarissa's motion and simultaneously denied Bill's, finding that Bill had contractually bound himself to pay a portion of his military-retirement benefits to Clarissa. The trial court also granted Clarissa an attorney's-fee award and filed a "Military Pension Division Order" (MPDO). Bill argues on appeal that the trial court erred by (1) granting Clarissa summary judgment; (2) awarding attorney's fees to Clarissa; (3) filing the MPDO; and (4) modifying the parties' contract. We affirm.

         I. Statement of the Case

         The parties were divorced on March 9, 2009, after having been married for about twelve years. Their decree provides that "[t]he Memorandum of Understanding executed as a contract between the parties is hereby incorporated in this Decree and the Court shall enforce said agreement[.]"

         The contract contains the mediation agreement the parties entered into after formal negotiation and encompasses their joint-custody arrangement and visitation, child-support, and property-settlement agreements. Bill's retirement account is listed as a marital asset under the heading "Property Settlement & Financial Considerations." Paragraph 38 provides as follows:

Bill will contact the appropriate Air Force retirement account personnel to inform them of the divorce and obtain and execute the necessary documents for Clarissa's one-half interest which accrued during the course of the marriage in his retirement account. He will give Clarissa copies of these documents and attach them to this agreement and Clarissa shall be responsible for effecting the QDRO[1] order for her one-half interest.

         Bill filed a motion for declaratory judgment arguing that when the parties divorced, he had served only fifteen years in the military and had accrued no entitlement to military-retirement benefits. He claimed that Clarissa was demanding entitlement to a portion of the military retirement that he had begun receiving after twenty years of service, subsequent to the divorce. He sought a declaratory judgment "clarifying for the parties that since [he] had not served time sufficient to have earned the right to receive military-retirement benefits as of the time of their divorce, no property right in same had vested and, therefore, there was no such asset to be divided." Clarissa responded that she was entitled to the retirement "per the terms of the Decree."

         Clarissa filed a motion for summary judgment and claimed that Bill had retired from the United States Air Force on February 1, 2015, after twenty years and that he had begun thereafter to receive military retirement. She cited the decree and the attached "Memorandum of Understanding" as set forth above. She argued that she was entitled to one-half of the portion of retirement that had accrued during their eleven-year ten-month marriage.

         Bill responded to Clarissa's summary-judgment motion and argued that as of the time of their divorce, he had accrued no entitlement to any military-retirement benefits. He cited Christopher v. Christopher, 316 Ark. 215, 871 S.W.2d 398 (1994), and Holaway v. Holaway, 70 Ark.App. 240, 16 S.W.3d 302 (2000), for the proposition that if a service member has not served enough time in the military at the time of the parties' divorce to have earned the right to military-retirement pay, then that right has not vested, and there is no asset to be divided upon the divorce. He argued that because his rights had not vested by the time they were divorced, Clarissa was not entitled to a portion of the benefit. Bill filed a countermotion for summary judgment and sought the same relief that he had requested in his declaratory-judgment motion, and he filed an amended motion for declaratory judgment that also asked for the same relief.

         On August 10, 2016, the trial court filed an order granting Clarissa's motion for summary judgment and denying Bill's countermotion for summary judgment. The trial court held that even though Bill had not served enough time in the military at the time of the divorce to have earned the right to military-retirement benefits, the parties had contemplated his future retirement and had chosen to enter into a binding contractual agreement to award Clarissa

one-half of the funds which accrued during the course of the marriage. While there was no asset to be divided at the time, the parties made no mention of whether the right was vested at the time and [Bill] was free to contractually bind himself to payment according to the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, which he has effectively done.

         The trial court found that the parties had been married for eleven years and ten months of Bill's twenty years of military service. Thus, the trial court awarded Clarissa one-half "of [Bill's] military retirement for that period of time." In the trial court's letter to the parties dated August 10, 2016, the trial court wrote that the parties had contemplated Bill's future retirement when they contracted for Clarissa to receive one-half of the sum that had accrued during the marriage. The letter ended with the statement, "[Clarissa] is responsible for preparing ...


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.