FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIFTEENTH DIVISION
[NO. 60DR-16-1602] HONORABLE RICHARD MOORE, JUDGE.
& Gillespie, by: Chad M. Green; and Brian G. Brooks,
Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brian G. Brooks, for appellant.
& Stotts, PLLC, by: Jocelyn A. Stotts, Bianca G. Garcia,
and Victor R. Richardson, for appellee.
F. VIRDEN, Judge.
Lakshiminarayana Chekuri appeals the divorce decree entered
by the Pulaski County Circuit Court dividing property and
awarding rehabilitative alimony to appellee Madhuri
Nekkalapudi. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court
erred in (1) awarding appellee $68, 415.50, which represented
one-half of the amount appellant spent after the parties had
separated; (2) equally dividing the funds that appellant
spent after the parties had separated and the funds in
appellant's retirement account; and (3) awarding appellee
rehabilitative alimony. We affirm in part and reverse in part
and remand for further proceedings.
Factual and Procedural Background
parties were married in India on February 12, 2015, as a
result of an arrangement by their families. They did not live
together the first month of their marriage. In March 2015,
appellant moved back to Arkansas to finish his residency at
UAMS and his PhD courses at the University of North Texas.
Appellee stayed in India, where she finished medical school.
She moved to Arkansas in May 2015. From May 2015 to December
2015, the parties lived together for approximately five and a
half months. During the marriage and up to the date of the
parties' separation, appellant worked at UAMS as a
resident earning $4, 800 to $5, 000 a month. Appellee did not
work. Six months after the parties separated, appellant
accepted a job at Mercy Clinic in Joplin, Missouri, earning
an annual salary of $250, 000 and receiving a $30, 000 bonus.
He was also working toward his doctoral degree at the
University of North Texas.
December 2015, appellee moved to Virginia to attend a Kaplan
course to obtain her American medical degree. She intended to
return to Arkansas after she completed the course in May
2016; however, on April 21, 2016, appellant filed for
divorce. On that same day, the trial court entered a
restraining order enjoining the parties from selling or
otherwise disposing of any property belonging to the parties.
October 24, 2016, the trial court held a hearing. At the
hearing, appellee testified that she is a United States
citizen but that appellant is not. She stated that appellant
had asked her to sponsor him for a green card. Appellee
further testified that appellant had verbally and physically
abused her beginning in June 2015. She explained that her
father currently paid for her living expenses but that he
expected her to pay him back. Thereafter, the trial court
entered a temporary order directing appellant to pay appellee
$2, 500 a month in alimony.
August 3, 2017, the trial court held a final hearing.
Appellee testified that she was living with her parents and
that she was working for her father while completing the
Kaplan program. She stated that her monthly income was $540,
that her monthly expenses totaled $4, 407, and that her debt
exceeded $100, 000. She testified that she had not completed
the necessary examinations to obtain her American medical
degree. She further noted that she had not sought other
employment in the past six months. Appellee stated that
appellant had agreed to financially support her while she
obtained her American medical degree. She further testified
that she had possession of the $25, 000 necklace that
appellant had given her as a customary wedding gift. Appellee
introduced appellant's bank statements into evidence,
which showed that he had made case withdrawals of $3, 670 in
2013, $4, 402 in 2014, $20, 645 in 2015, and $86, 420 in
testified that he worked at Mercy Hospital, his annual salary
was $270, 504, and his monthly expenses totaled $18, 559. He
noted that he hoped to complete the PhD program by the end of
the year. He denied having any financial accounts in India,
and he explained that he had transferred money to India
around the time of his marriage to cover expenses for the
wedding. Appellant further testified that he had transferred
$86, 000 in 2016 to repay a loan. He noted that for wedding
gifts, he had given appellee a $25, 000 gold necklace and an
$18, 000 gold ring. He further testified that since their
separation, he had spent money on his PhD research,
relocation expenses, rent in Joplin, housing expenses in
Arkansas, and student and personal loans.
March 19, 2018, the trial court entered a divorce decree. In
the decree, the trial court awarded appellee one-half of
appellant's retirement contributions from February 12,
2015, through the date of the decree. Appellant's
retirement account totaled $21, 321.99. The trial court
further ordered appellant to pay appellee $68, 415.50,
representing one-half of the marital funds he had spent
during the parties' separation, and $1, 000 a month in
spousal support for eighteen months. The trial court further
awarded appellee all the jewelry that appellant had given
her. Appellant timely appealed from the decree.