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Franks v. Franks

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

April 25, 2018



          James R. Filyaw, for appellant.

          Gean, Gean & Gean, by: Roy Gean III, for appellee.

          BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge

         Sandra Franks appeals the circuit court's divorce decree, arguing that the circuit court erred in (1) its division of the retirement accounts, (2) its division of the marital home, and (3) dividing the property in a "starkly inequitable" manner. We affirm.

         Sandra and William Franks married in September 1993 and separated in November 2016. Sandra filed for divorce and asked the circuit court to make an equitable division of the marital property. William counterclaimed for divorce and agreed that the parties' property should be fairly and equitably divided. In their pleadings, neither party mentioned a prenuptial agreement signed in September 1993; this agreement stated that

each of the parties have agreed that all of the property now owned by either party or hereafter acquired by either of them by gift or inheritance, including any property conveyed to either party by the other, shall be free from any rights or claims that each party might otherwise acquired as the other's spouse[.]

         The agreement also included a list of the parties' separate property; on William's list was "ABF Retirement or Pension" and "ABF Stock."

         The circuit court convened a hearing in June 2017. Sandra testified that she and William bought their marital home on Bunker Hill Drive in November or December 1997 and that the $31, 000 down payment came from an inheritance she had received from her aunt. She testified that she paid another $10, 000 toward the property in December 1997 and $63, 425 toward the property in March 1998; both of these payments stemmed from Sandra's inheritance from her aunt. In January 2000, Sandra received a $25, 000 payment of gas royalties that she inherited from her aunt, and that money was used to make improvements to the Bunker Hill house. And in June 2011, William's brother paid approximately $34, 000 to pay off the house. In all, Sandra estimated that she had paid 80 percent of the purchase price of the home, and she asked the court to divide the value of the marital home accordingly. She acknowledged that a separate property known as the Barling property was William's premarital property, although she said that she was responsible for managing the rental properties contained on that property.

         Sandra also explained that William has a pension "with the Teamsters when he retired from ABF" and that he had worked for ABF for five years before they were married. She said that William was currently receiving $1772 a month from that pension. Sandra explained that William also has an IRA through ABF and that after he retired, "the IRA was left through Morgan Stanley and then they said since he was no longer working it had to be rolled over into a Fidelity account." She also said that it was divided into stocks. According to Sandra, during the marriage she had access to the IRA and withdrew money at William's request whenever he needed it.

         On cross-examination, Sandra agreed that the Bunker Hill house was held jointly by her and William. She also agreed that she and William had signed a prenuptial agreement and that the agreement listed the Barling property, "ABF Retirement or Pension, " and "ABF Stock" as William's property. But she said that William's pension was through the Teamsters, not through ABF.

         William testified that he did not dispute any of Sandra's testimony. He stated that he wanted the Bunker Hill home to be equally divided and that the Barling property was his separate property. He also agreed that the Fidelity account, which was his 401k through ABF, and his pension are listed as his separate property in the prenuptial agreement as "ABF retirement or pension." He clarified that his pension is "a Teamsters pension that was paid through ABF." He also said, "I had stock too, but we sold that." He also stated that he had put Sandra's name on the Morgan Stanley account because she was his wife and acknowledged a 2013 account statement from Morgan Stanley that listed him and Sandra as "JTWROS, " meaning joint tenants with right of survivorship. Sandra was recalled and confirmed that when the Morgan Stanley account was rolled over into Fidelity, her name was not placed on the account.

         After the hearing, the court issued a letter opinion that found in pertinent part:

The Court determines the home place is marital property based upon the testimony of the parties; the status of the ownership as Tenants by the Entirety; and the joint occupance and contributions of the parties. There was no proof before the Court of any intent to keep this property separate and no indication from either party that the property was maintained other than as joint property. This ...

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