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Williams v. Lofton

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

December 12, 2018



          Andre K Valley, for appellant.

          Ballard & Ballard, P.A., by: Andrew D. Ballard, for appellee.

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge.

         Victor D. Williams, M.D., appeals the order of the Pulaski County Circuit Court regarding his child support and visitation dispute with Tiffany Lofton. Williams presents five points on appeal: (1) the circuit court erred by not finding that a material change in circumstances occurred; (2) the circuit court erred in finding him in contempt of court for failing to provide medical insurance for their daughter[1] and in awarding Lofton resulting health insurance costs she incurred; (3) the circuit court erred in awarding attorney's fees; (4) the circuit court erred in its determination regarding visitation; and (5) the circuit court erred in denying Williams's request to allow money placed into an educational trust to be counted in lieu of a portion of his child-support obligation. We reverse and remand the first point on appeal for the circuit court to enter an order in compliance with Administrative Order No. 10, and because the circuit court's determination of attorney's fees may be affected by its decision regarding child support, we remand that issue as well. We affirm the circuit court's determination that Williams was in contempt of court for disregarding the court's previous order to provide VW's health insurance, and we affirm the court's award of related costs. We affirm the circuit court's decision regarding visitation, and we affirm its denial of Williams's request to contribute to VW's educational trust fund in lieu of a portion of his child-support obligation.

         I. Relevant Facts

         In October 2006, the Pulaski County Circuit Court entered an order adjudicating Williams as the father of VW. Williams was awarded visitation four hours every other Sunday, and he was ordered to pay $2, 400 in child support each month. The circuit court directed Williams to maintain a $500, 000 life insurance policy on VW naming VW as the beneficiary, to maintain health insurance for VW, and to pay all healthcare and dental costs not covered by insurance.

         On May 23, 2014, Williams filed an amended petition to modify support based on his assertion that his income had decreased by more than 20 percent due to the loss of his medical license and his resulting unemployment. It was also that month that Williams began paying $500 a month for child support instead of the court ordered $2, 400 per month. Lofton filed a timely response; however, no action was taken by the court until two years later. On June 7, 2016, Lofton filed a motion to show cause requesting that Williams be held in contempt of court for unilaterally reducing his child support payment to $500 a month since May 2014, for failing to maintain life insurance, and for failing to maintain health and dental insurance for VW from January 1, 2012 to August 15, 2015. On July 5, 2016, Williams filed a second amended petition to modify child support reiterating that a material change of circumstances occurred due to the loss of his medical license in 2014, which led to the reduction in his income. Williams contended that he had been able to pay only $500 a month in support since May 2014. Williams described "ongoing issues" regarding the conditional reinstatement of his license and the difficulty of being admitted into the insurance networks due to his licensure issues. Williams requested that he be relieved of his obligation to maintain a life insurance policy. Williams disputed that he had not provided health insurance for VW.

         On December 12, 2016, a hearing was held. At the hearing, Williams acknowledged that in 2006 he was ordered to pay $2, 400 a month in child support, and he testified that he did so until May 2014, when he reduced his monthly payment to $500. Williams contended that his decision to reduce his child support payment was based on the loss of his medical license in April 2014 and the resulting reduction in his income. Williams offered testimony regarding the events that led to the loss of his medical license, namely that a peer review led to four complaints against him. Williams stated that his attorney failed to inform him of a related hearing before the medical board, and when he missed the hearing, his license was revoked from April 2014 to November 2015. In October 2015, Williams and the medical board reached an agreement that was entered in the circuit court in which his license was reinstated, but also setting forth that Williams was required to have a proctor oversee his work. Williams testified that since his reinstatement he had encountered difficulty finding insurance networks willing to enroll him, which has negatively affected his income because he is an out-of-network provider and patients pay more for his services. Williams also asserted that he did not agree to having a proctor oversee his work and that he disputed that aspect of the agreed order. Williams stated that he did not use a proctor and that one was not required by his current employer, North Metro Medical Center, where he works as an on-call surgeon.

         Williams offered testimony regarding his income and his debt obligations. He stated that since April 2014, he had borrowed money from friends, withdrawn money from his retirement accounts, and drawn on his savings. At the hearing, he presented his 2014 and 2015 income tax returns, and he stated that the 2014 return showed that he earned around $109, 000 from wages, royalties, and rental payments. Williams stated that from 2006 to April 2014, his income was around $192, 000 "for child support purposes." Williams testified that his 2015 income tax report showed that he lost $51, 585 that year in income. Williams explained that during the time his license was revoked, he kept his business (Surgical Associates) open because he believed that his license would be quickly reinstated. Williams testified that he paid from $6, 500 to $7, 000 a month in rent, and that he did not own the building. Williams then clarified that V&W Properties owned the building, and he and one other person owned V&W Properties. He explained that he was not able to pay the full year of rent and taxes in 2015, which accounted for the $51, 585 in loss of income for that year. Williams testified that his 2015 income tax report showed that he had drawn $174, 750 from his IRA. Williams testified that in 2016 he withdrew $165, 000 from his IRA, that his total income was $167, 895, and that he paid $93, 675 to Surgical Associates. Williams explained that as of September 2016, he had begun earning income again as an on-call surgeon.

         On cross-examination, Williams testified that he had not missed any payments in service to any of his debts, though at times he made late payments. Williams explained that he had overpaid $2, 500 on a credit card to make room on the card because it had been at its maximum. Williams addressed his monthly gambling losses averaging $500 to $600. Williams stated that he posted bets for a friend who was in poor health and that while he was posting for his friend, he posted bets for himself as well. Williams admitted that his bank records showed gambling expenses for several months after his friend died.

         Williams requested that the court set aside a portion of the child support to go into an educational trust. Williams testified that he did not have any confidence Lofton would pay for VW's college education because he had paid over $260, 000 in child support over twelve years, and she had not diverted a portion of those payments to a college fund. Williams stated that he had placed $3, 000 in a college fund for VW.

         Williams testified that he had maintained health insurance for VW, and he presented a letter from his insurance provider, QualChoice, showing that VW had been covered since January 1, 2013. Williams admitted he had not given the insurance card to Lofton. Williams clarified that he had maintained a life insurance policy for VW as he had been ordered to do and that the policy had never lapsed.

         Williams expressed to the court his desire to have a close relationship with VW, and he requested standard visitation. He stated that VW had been to his house once in December, that he had not exercised visitation in November, and that he was not sure whether she had been to his home in October. He explained that Lofton and he communicated by text, though it was difficult at times, and that once there was a gap of five or six weeks when Lofton did not respond to his texts regarding visitation. Williams stated that he wanted to be apprised of VW's school work as well, and he admitted that he had not gone to have lunch with VW at her school since his period of unemployment began, though he had attended school programs. Williams testified that he had not attended any tennis tournaments since she had begun playing four years before, though he blamed this on not being told when the tournaments were being held. Williams admitted that he had previously ...

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