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Reynolds v. Reynolds

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

April 10, 2019

JASON REYNOLDS APPELLANT
v.
STACY REYNOLDS (NOW THOMAS) APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 26DR-08-927] HONORABLE JOHN HOMER WRIGHT, JUDGE

          Emily J. Reynolds, for appellant.

          Appellate Solutions, PLLC, d/b/a/ Riordan Law Firm, by: Deborah Truby Riordan, for appellee.

          KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE.

         This is a child-custody case. Appellant Jason Reynolds and appellee Stacy Reynolds (now Thomas) were married in March 2006 and divorced in September 2009. One son, C.R., was born of the marriage in July 2007. At the time of the divorce, the parties entered into an agreement, which was incorporated into the divorce decree, whereby the parties agreed that Stacy would be the "primary residential custodian" of C.R. subject to Jason's visitation.[1] The divorce decree ordered Jason to pay $72 in weekly child support. Both parties remarried in 2010, and both remained in Hot Springs, where they had lived during their marriage. In July 2012, the parties entered into a "Final Order," approved by the trial court, whereby Stacy remained the primary residential custodian subject to Jason's visitation. The "Final Order" increased Jason's child support to $201 biweekly and altered some of the conditions of the prior agreement.

         On February 24, 2016, Stacy filed a petition to relocate, to increase child support, and for contempt. In her petition, Stacy stated that her husband, Andy Thomas, was in law enforcement and had procured employment in McKinney, Texas, earning forty-eight percent more than he was currently making. Stacy requested that she be allowed to relocate with the child to Texas, where C.R. would have a better quality of life. Stacy also asked that child support be increased and that Jason be held in contempt for refusing to pay his share of medical expenses or extraordinary expenses.

         On March 16, 2016, Jason filed a response to Stacy's petition, asking that all of her requested relief be denied. Jason also filed a petition for a temporary and permanent change in custody. In his custody petition, Jason alleged that there had been a material change in circumstances because Stacy had repeatedly withheld visitation, willfully created conflict in an attempt to disrupt the parties' custody arrangement, and alienated C.R. from Jason and Jason's family. Asserting that Stacy had neglected C.R.'s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, Jason asserted that it was in the child's best interest for Jason to be awarded primary custody. Jason subsequently filed petitions for contempt based on Stacy's alleged prevention of his visitation with C.R.

         Stacy's spouse began working in McKinney, Texas, in March 2016. However, Stacy and C.R. did not move to Texas until June 2016 after the end of the school year. Jason exercised his regular visitation with C.R. through June 2016 and then exercised his regular summer visitation. C.R. began third grade in Texas in August 2016.

         A temporary hearing was held on September 6, 2016. On October 6, 2016, the trial court entered an order finding that there was insufficient time to conclude the temporary hearing, and that the parties had agreed to keep the record open and continue the proceedings at a final hearing to resolve all pending issues. Pending the final hearing, the trial court ordered that Stacy retain custody and that C.R. continue attending school in Texas. The final hearing was held on January 19-20, 2017.

         On March 20, 2017, the trial court entered an "Order after Hearing," making these specific findings:

1. The Plaintiff [Stacy] is the primary custodian and there is not joint custody.
2. The Plaintiff's reasons for relocation include the substantial pay increase for her husband's employment and her assessment that educational opportunities were as good, if not better, at their projected school district in Texas as existed in Hot Springs.
3. The proposed relocation was not motivated by an intent to restrict the Defendant's [Jason's] visitation with the child.
4. The Defendant failed to rebut the presumption in favor of ...

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