Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

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.

Williams v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

January 31, 2018



          The Graham Law Firm, by: James Lucas Graham, for appellant.

          Robin Smith Law Firm, PA, by: Robin C. Smith; and Walas Law Firm, PLLC, by: Breean Walas, for appellee.

          WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge

         Appellant John Williams appeals from the April 18, 2017 amended divorce decree filed by the Montgomery County Circuit Court. The decree granted appellee Patricia Williams a divorce from bed and board, permanent alimony in the amount of $1, 100 a month, and a marital car that appellant was ordered to pay for until both the marital home and RV were sold. The decree also prevented the parties from returning to the court for a period of five years to seek modification of the permanent alimony. On appeal, appellant contends that (1) the trial court's award of permanent alimony was an abuse of discretion, (2) the trial court's prevention of the parties from moving to modify the alimony award for five years is contrary to Arkansas law, and (3) the trial court's refusal to enforce the parties' binding agreement regarding the Mazda car payments and alimony was an abuse of discretion. We reverse in part, and reverse and remand in part.

         The parties met each other through an online dating site called TAG in January or February 2009. At that time, appellant had just completed a deployment in Iraq and was stationed in Georgia as an IT security specialist and warrant officer for the United States Army. Appellee had a business cleaning residential and commercial properties which she had owned since 1993. Appellant was subsequently transferred to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, and appellee joined him around July 2009, closing her cleaning business. They lived together in El Paso and were married on December 28, 2009. The parties lived in Texas approximately two and a half years, and appellee worked as a cosmetology instructor for a couple of months while there.[1] The parties moved to Augusta, Georgia, in 2011 when appellant was sent to officer training there. After training, appellant was transferred to Tennessee. Appellee worked several months as a cosmetology instructor while in Tennessee. Appellant underwent hip surgery in 2012, and he retired in February 2013.[2]The parties moved to California after appellant's retirement because he was unhappy with the service he was receiving from the VA in Tennessee. Appellee flew to Tennessee while appellant was receiving services in California to get appellant's medical records and to downsize their home. They lived in California for about a year and then returned to Tennessee. They subsequently sold their home, packed up their RV, and moved to Arkansas. Appellee helped clean cabins and haul "wood and stuff" after she moved to Arkansas. Appellant underwent back surgery in November 2015. Appellant left appellee on April 10, 2016, and moved back to California.

         Appellee filed a complaint and subsequently an amended complaint for divorce, alleging general indignities. Among other things, appellee requested temporary and permanent alimony, temporary possession of the marital home and her vehicle, that her health insurance be kept current, equitable distribution of the parties' debts and assets, and that the parties' real property be sold and the proceeds divided equally. Appellant filed an answer to appellee's amended complaint and a counterclaim for divorce. A temporary hearing took place on June 13, 2016, and the court entered a temporary order on June 24, 2016, in which it found that appellant's income was the sole income for the family and that he should pay appellee $1, 100 a month until the final hearing. The court ordered appellant to pay the parties' vehicle and medical-insurance premiums and the loan for the purchase of the marital home. Appellant was also ordered to return the car to appellee and to retrieve the truck and motorhome. It forbade contact by the parties pending the final hearing.

         The final hearing took place on January 17, 2017. Appellee's testimony traced the above evidence concerning how she and appellant met, when they were married, the number of times they moved during the marriage, appellant's surgeries, appellant's retirement from the Army, and when the parties separated. Additionally, she testified that the parties found a little trailer in Arkansas and that she went back to Tennessee to retrieve their belongings. She stated that as she was lifting the dolly up off the back of the motorhome, she tore the muscles away from her chest cavity. She also stated that she had been having problems with her back for which she was treated. She testified that she had bulging discs in her back and a fracture in one of those discs and the joint in the base of her spine. However, she stated that she receives steroid shots for this issue. She said that she suffers from both degenerative arthritis and degenerative disc disease. Appellee stated that her back pain began around 2014 but that it got progressively worse over time. She said that she takes medication for anxiety, high blood pressure, thyroids, nightmares, depression, and pain. She testified that she had no income other than the temporary support appellant was ordered to pay. She denied having any savings, but testified that there was $1, 300 in her checking account because appellant had just made his support payment. She stated that she did not have any plan for the future.

         On cross-examination, appellee stated that appellant had no plans of leaving the Army when they were married. She said that at the end of 2014, her back pain prevented her from doing the things she wanted to do. She denied working in 2014 or after that time. However, she subsequently admitted that between July and August 2015, she helped clean cabins. She stated that she was forty-five when she married appellant and that she had no retirement at that time because she lost everything in the stock-market crash of 2008. She testified that she was previously married for five years but that she did not receive retirement or any other benefits from that marriage. However, she stated that she made a lot of money. She said that she had filed for Social Security Disability benefits in May 2016 but had been denied. She stated that she appealed that denial and was waiting on the results of that appeal. Appellee admitted that appellant is disabled and unable to work.

         On redirect, appellee stated that she was not physically capable of working due to the unbearable pain in her back. She said that she cannot stand or sit long, cannot sweep, and cannot vacuum without taking pain medicine and having to lie down.

         Dr. Paula Mercer testified that she is a mental health therapist and that she has treated appellee at Ouachita Behavioral Health and Wellness. She stated that appellee had been diagnosed with PTSD. She said that appellee can improve but that it would take some time. She opined that it was not possible for appellee to currently hold down a job due to the PTSD. She also acknowledged that appellee suffers from back issues.

         Dr. Mercer testified on cross-examination that she began seeing appellee on August 31, 2016. She stated that she could not say 100 percent that appellee did not suffer from PTSD before marrying appellant.

         Sharon Dyer testified that she used to be appellee's neighbor and had known appellee for seven or eight months. She stated that appellee came to her about a month after appellant left and was hysterical and afraid of being alone. She said that she moved in with appellee for over two months and noticed that appellee would break down each time she received word from anyone about appellant. She stated that appellee was slowly improving but that she still breaks down every time something comes up about the divorce. She testified that appellee was on a lot of medicine. She stated that there was no doubt in her mind that appellee suffers from both mental- and physical-health problems.

         On cross-examination, Dyer stated that during the time the parties lived together, she never saw appellant be violent toward appellee, raise his voice, or say something out of the way to appellee.

         Cella Green testified that she was a teacher and was familiar with both appellant and appellee. She stated that appellee's "anxiety level has gone through the roof" since appellant left. She said that appellee was always worrying about appellant's well-being. She testified that some days appellee cannot get out of the bed due to either physical pain, emotional pain, or both. Green stated that appellee's physical health had deteriorated since they first met in 2015.

         On cross-examination, Green stated that appellant had discussed his PTSD, anger issues, and refusal to take medications in her presence. However, she denied ever seeing appellant act physically violent. She opined that the parties' separation triggered appellee's emotional issues. She stated that she saw appellee ride a four-wheeler before the parties were separated.

         Appellant testified that he was honorably discharged from the Army in February 2013. He stated that appellee was engaging in physical activities as late as 2015. He said that when they lived together in Arkansas, appellee would ride the four-wheeler regularly and dig for crystals around the property through April 2016. He stated that he had no knowledge of appellee receiving treatment for her back in 2015 and that during that time she was walking up and down the hill as exercise to help get appellant's back and body back in shape. However, he stated that prior to him leaving in April 2016, he noticed appellee was in a lot of pain when the doctor was realigning her back. He said that he could not say that he had never been physically violent towards appellee but that he had also had to defend himself from blows administered by her. He testified that during the marriage, appellee had issues with mental or emotional stability and that she would yell, curse, and destroy things. He stated that he was unaware if he gave appellee a cause to be fearful of him. He said that on the day he left, appellee indicated that she was planning on working at the Deli, a little shop down the street from where they were living. He stated that they never had a discussion about appellee not being able to work. He asked the court to deny appellee's request for alimony. However, he wanted the property divided equally.

         On cross-examination, appellant stated that he received a restraining order against appellee. He admitted that he had been married two other times, and stated that appellee had also been married twice before him. He stated that appellee worked hard taking care of him and helping with his rehab after his surgeries. He testified that his total net monthly income is $6, 506.56. He also outlined his total monthly expenses. Appellant stated that he was diagnosed at 70 percent PTSD through the VA.

         After the conclusion of appellant's case, appellant withdrew his complaint for divorce and appellee amended her complaint for absolute divorce to a request for a divorce from bed and board. Appellant waived corroboration. The parties reached an agreement as to the property and the stipulated agreement was read into the record. The following pertinent colloquy took place:

Ms. Smith: The parties own a 2002 Dodge Dakota truck as well as a Mazda CX5 car and a 1999 Holiday Rambler Endeavor motorhome as well as a ...

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.