Storey v. Ward, 74--296

Decision Date28 April 1975
Docket NumberNo. 74--296,74--296
Citation258 Ark. 24,523 S.W.2d 387
PartiesEd STOREY, Appellant, v. Peggy WARD, Appellee.
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Jack Yates, of Yates & Turner, Ozark, for appellant.

Hardin, Jesson & Dawson, Fort Smith, for appellee.

GEORGE ROSE SMITH, Justice.

The only issue here is the retroactive liability of the appellant father for the support of the parties' two children, at the rate of $70 a month. This appeal is from a decree imposing liability in the total sum of $6,262.00.

The facts are unlike those in any of our prior cases. Peggy Storey (now the appellee, Peggy Ward) brought suit in 1964 for a divorce on the ground of personal indignities. Attached to the complaint was a property agreement which recited that it was contingent upon its approval by the court and which contained this pivotal paragraph:

Both parties further agree that the plaintiff is a fit and proper person to have the permanent care and custody of the children of plaintiff and defendant, and the defendant agrees to pay the plaintiff Seventy Dollars ($70.00) per month for the support of the said minor children so long as she shall remain unmarried and within the jurisdiction of this court.

The court's final decree was signed in June, 1964, by the late Chancellor Hugh M. Bland. The decree found that the parties' agreement should be approved and that the defendant should pay $70 a month for the support of the children 'in accordance with the property agreement entered into between the parties.' In the final paragraph of the decree the court granted a divorce to the plaintiff, awarded her the custody of the children, and ordered the defendant to pay $70 a month as child support, with reasonable visitation rights. The court retained jurisdiction of the case.

The father made the payments, although not always promptly, until his former wife married Wendell Harris in December, 1965. No further payments were made until that marriage ended in a divorce in September, 1970. Storey then began making payments of $25 a month, saying (according to the appellee) that that was all he could afford. The appellee married her present husband, Jack Ward, in March of 1971, and Storey again discontinued his payments. In December of 1973 the appellee filed her present petition, asserting a claim for arrearages totaling $6,262.00 and asking that the appellant be cited for contempt of court. By an interim order the chancellor directed that the $70 payments be resumed. This appeal is from a later order entering judgment, as we have said, for $6,262.00.

Chancellor Gant, in making that award, construed Chancellor Bland's original decree as a directive that the monthly payments be made regardless of the mother's remarriages. We do not so construe the decree. Although the final paragraph did not mention the matter of remarriage, two earlier paragraphs had specifically approved the agreement without reservation and had directed the father to make the $70 monthly payments 'in accordance with' the parties' agreement. When the decree is considered in its entirety, we think it gave effect to the agreement. Moreover, the parties themselves so interpreted the decree for almost ten years (with the possible exception of a somewhat ambiguous petition that was filed by the appellee in 1968 but not brought to the trial court's attention).

We turn to the novel and interesting problem of the validity of the parties' agreement, drafted by counsel and approved by the court, that the defendant should pay the stipulated child support money to the plaintiff 'so long as she shall remain unmarried . . .' Even though we have never passed upon this exact question, our earlier decisions are decidedly helpful.

A father's duty to support his minor children undoubtedly continues after the entry of a divorce decree. In Holt v. Holt, 42 Ark. 495 (1883), the decree awarded custody of the children to the mother but made no provision for their support. When, two years later, the mother brought suit to recover the amount of her expenditures...

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11 cases
  • Rodgers v. Rodgers
    • United States
    • Arkansas Court of Appeals
    • September 28, 2016
    ..."both a legal and a moral duty to do so." Fonken v. Fonken , 334 Ark. 637, 642, 976 S.W.2d 952 (1998) ; see also Storey v. Ward , 258 Ark. 24, 26, 523 S.W.2d 387, 389 (1975) ; Nason v. State Arkansas Child Support Enf't , 55 Ark. App. 164, 165, 934 S.W.2d 228, 230 (1996) ; Dangelo v. Neil ,......
  • Dees v. Dees
    • United States
    • Arkansas Court of Appeals
    • May 31, 1989
    ...or afterwards, and he did not assert this position until one year after the May 1987 judgment was entered. The case of Storey v. Ward, 258 Ark. 24, 523 S.W.2d 387 (1975), while similar, is factually distinguishable from the case at bar. In Storey v. Ward, it was held that there is no princi......
  • Warren v. Kordsmeier, CA
    • United States
    • Arkansas Court of Appeals
    • February 19, 1997
    ...law in this state that the duty of child support cannot be bartered away permanently to the detriment of the child. Storey v. Ward, 258 Ark. 24, 523 S.W.2d 387 (1975); Robbins v. Robbins, 231 Ark. 184, 328 S.W.2d 498 (1959). See also Barnhard v. Barnhard, 252 Ark. 167, 477 S.W.2d 845 (1972)......
  • Akins v. Mofield
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • December 4, 2003
    ...obligation may be affected by contract, the duty cannot be bartered away permanently to the detriment of the child. Storey [v. Ward], 258 Ark. 24 at 26, 523 S.W.2d at 389; Robbins v. Robbins, 231 Ark. 184, 187, 328 S.W.2d 498, 500 Fonken v. Fonken, 334 Ark. at 642, 976 S.W.2d at 955. Fonken......
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