FROM THE BAXTER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 03DR-14-428]
HONORABLE JOHN R. PUTMAN, JUDGE
Ballard & Ballard, P.A., by: Andrew D. Ballard, for
Ethredge & Copeland, P.A., by: David L. Ethredge and
Johnnie A. Copeland, for appellee.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, JUDGE
James Pilkinton and appellee Hope Pilkinton were divorced by
a decree of the Baxter County Circuit Court. James appeals
the final decree,  arguing that the circuit court erred in
the division of the couple's marital and nonmarital
property. We find no error and affirm.
and James began living together in 2002 and married in 2011.
They subsequently separated, and Hope filed a complaint for
divorce in 2014; James answered and filed a counterclaim for
divorce. The parties proceeded to a contested hearing on the
issues of their real and personal property. As to the real
property, Hope testified that she owned the land on which she
and James lived before they were married, and his name was
never placed on the real estate. James did not contest the
evidence that Hope owned the real estate before the marriage
and that his name was not on the deed. He did present
evidence that he had made contributions to the value of the
real estate during the marriage.
their personal property, Hope testified that she owned a
small hay-farming business called Steel Dust Farms before the
marriage. She acknowledged that in 2005 or 2006, before they
were married, James founded a lawn-care business called James
Tree and Lawn Service. She contended, however, that during
the marriage she and James together purchased items to be
used for that business. Hope presented the court with a list,
designated Plaintiff's Exhibit 1, of the property and
equipment that she contended were purchased for James's
business during the marriage. James did not object to the
exhibit. Likewise, James described some of the equipment that
he used for his business. He asserted that he had paid for
some of the equipment but admitted that Hope had paid for
some. He further testified about some of the equipment that
was on Hope's exhibit 1 without disputing her inclusion
of the equipment on that list or her characterization of it.
regard to other personal-property interests, Hope introduced
Plaintiff's Exhibit 2, which was a handwritten list of
personal property that James removed from their house after
she filed for divorce; she captioned this list "A
tentative list of what he took (there is so much more)."
On this list, she denoted items that were hers before the
marriage, items she considered to be James's nonmarital
property, and items that were deemed marital property. James
did not object to the introduction of the exhibit.
connection with exhibit 2, Hope explained that she had
inherited much of her personal property from her father. She
reported that many of the items were no longer present on the
property because James had removed them before the
hearing. She asked the court to order that all of
the items on the list that had been bought during the
marriage be returned and sold, the items of personal property
that were hers returned to her, and the items that belonged
to James awarded to him. At the end of the hearing, the
circuit court invited both parties to submit briefs on some
"recent developments in the marital property law."
Neither party submitted a brief.
circuit court entered a final decree on July 11, 2017,
addressing the nonmarital-and marital-property interests of
the parties. As to the nonmarital property, the court found
the home and land on which the couple resided and their
individually owned and operated businesses to be nonmarital
property. The court noted that both parties contributed to
improvements to both the land and the businesses but
concluded as follows:
Without more evidence than [was] presented at trial, the
contributions Mr. Pilkinton and Ms. Pilkinton made to the
improvement of the other's property or business can only
be considered voluntary and in the nature of gifts. Thus, Mr.
Pilkinton has no interest in Ms. Pilkinton's real
property and the improvements thereon, and Ms. Pilkinton is
awarded the same. Neither party has an interest in the
other's business. Therefore, Ms. Pilkinton is awarded the
assets of Steel Dust Farms. Mr. Pilkinton is awarded the
assets [of] James Lawn and Tree Service, including the
equipment listed on Exhibit "A" attached hereto and
court then went on to award to Hope, as her nonmarital
property, the items she identified on plaintiff's exhibit
2 as belonging to her, including the items that she had
inherited from her father; the court awarded to James, as his
nonmarital property, the items Hope had marked as
"his" on the same exhibit.
the marital property, the court attached to its decree an
exhibit "B." The items on the court's exhibit
"B" were the remaining items from Hope's
exhibit 2 that she had designated as marital property-i.e.,
those that were designated neither Hope's nor James's
individual property. Regarding these items, the court
provided as follows:
The items listed on Exhibit "B" which is attached
hereto and incorporated herein are marital property. The
items listed in Exhibit "B" shall be assembled and
sold at public auction within forty-five days of the filing
of this Decree. Any sums remaining after the costs of ...