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Conley v. Conley

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

October 2, 2019

Samuel L. CONLEY, Appellant
v.
Althea T. CONLEY, Appellee

Page 242

          APPEAL FROM THE UNION COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 70DR-15-503], HONORABLE MICHAEL R. LANDERS, JUDGE

         J.F. Valley Esq., P.A., by: James F. Valley, Helena, for appellant.

         Ronald L. Griggs, El Dorado, for appellee.

         OPINION

         RITA W. GRUBER, Chief Judge

          The sole issue on appeal in this case is whether the circuit court’s award of attorney’s fees in a postdivorce-decree order constitutes an abuse of discretion. We recognize that appellant has presented four additional points[1] on appeal concerning the court’s divorce decree, but we have no jurisdiction to address them. Accordingly,

Page 243

we grant appellee’s motion to dismiss a previous appeal from the divorce decree (CV-18-603), we grant appellee’s motion to limit the appeal in this case to the issue of attorney’s fees, and we affirm the award.

          Althea and Samuel Conley were married in 1988 and divorced by decree entered on December 30, 2016. During their marriage, both parties pursued advanced degrees with Althea obtaining a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and an M.D. She completed her education in 2004 and has been a practicing psychiatrist in South Arkansas since that time. Samuel has a B.S. in engineering, a master’s degree in statistics, and several years of coursework for a Ph.D. in biostatistics. He did not work outside the home during their marriage but stayed home to care for their four daughters[2] and oversee the parties’ rental properties. Althea filed a complaint for divorce on September 30, 2015. Both parties asked the court for primary custody; Samuel also asked for alimony.

          The circuit court entered a temporary order in January 2016 awarding primary custody to Althea and directing that she and the children remain in the family home on Ridgewood Drive in El Dorado. The court awarded exclusive possession of the parties’ West Little Rock home on Quercus Circle to Samuel.

          The circuit court held a final hearing in December 2016 and entered a divorce decree on December 30, 2016. The court granted a divorce to Althea and awarded her custody of the three minor children with visitation to Samuel "as agreed between the parties" or pursuant to the court’s standard visitation guidelines if they could not agree. The court ordered Samuel to pay weekly child support of $119. The court considered that Samuel was unemployed but noted the testimony of a qualified rehabilitation counselor confirming he had the education and physical ability to earn a substantial wage but lacked the desire to work. The court imputed minimum wage so that Samuel could prepare to get a job but ordered him to "immediately present proof of income" upon obtaining employment and stated that child support would be modified at that time. The court also ordered Althea to pay alimony in the amount of $2000 a month for twenty-four months. Finally, the court specifically divided the parties’ personal property and made the following division of their real property:

a. [Althea] shall receive the residence and contents therein located at ... Ridgewood Drive, El Dorado, Arkansas. [Samuel] shall receive as his own property the four duplexes in North Little Rock, Arkansas, and their contents.
b. There are two houses that are owned by the family LLC in Little Rock, Arkansas. Each party shall receive one of the houses and contents. If the parties cannot agree as to the ownership of these two houses, they shall be sold and the proceeds of the sale divided evenly between them.
c. The home at ... Quercus Circle, Little Rock, Arkansas, and contents shall be sold and the proceeds divided evenly after payment of the debt presently owed for said property and costs of sale. A sale may be avoided by agreement between the parties made within thirty (30) days of the decree.[3]

          Samuel filed a notice of appeal from the decree on January ...


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