Tortorich v. Tortorich

Decision Date30 April 1998
Docket NumberNo. 97-884,97-884
Citation968 S.W.2d 53,333 Ark. 15
PartiesTony TORTORICH, Appellant, v. Pam TORTORICH, Appellee.
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Phil Campbell, Dorcy Kyle Corbin, North Little Rock, for Appellant.

Linda D. Shepherd, Allison R. Wooten, North Little Rock, for Appellee.

GLAZE, Justice.

This case is the third appeal involving Tony and Pam Tortorich. Tortorich v. Tortorich, 324 Ark. 128, 919 S.W.2d 213 (1996) (Tortorich II); Tortorich v. Tortorich, 50 Ark.App. 114, 902 S.W.2d 247 (1995) (Tortorich I). In Tortorich I, the Pulaski County Chancery Court, on December 15, 1993, denied Tony's counterclaim for absolute divorce, granted Pam a divorce from bed and board, and, among other things, ordered Tony to pay $6,000.00 per month child support, $1,000.00 per month alimony, and to maintain Pam on his health and hospitalization insurance. Pam was also awarded a marital interest in Tony's professional association. Tony appealed the chancellor's decree.

While Tony's appeal was pending in the court of appeals, he moved to Saline County and, in March of 1994, filed suit against Pam, requesting an absolute divorce based on eighteen-months separation. Pam retaliated a few days later by suing Tony for an absolute divorce in Pulaski County. Both parties moved to dismiss each other's divorce suit, but the Pulaski and Saline County chancellors denied the motions. The Pulaski County chancellor, however, held Pam's case in abeyance, while the Saline County chancellor permitted Tony to proceed with his case; Pam continued her objection to the Saline County court's venue. On November 17, 1994, the Saline County chancellor entered his decree, which conflicted with the Pulaski County chancellor's earlier order of December 15, 1993. The Saline County chancellor granted Tony a divorce, denied Pam any alimony and health insurance, and awarded Pam child support in the monthly sum of $5,663.00. At this stage of litigation, Tony chose to follow the Saline County chancellor's decree, instead of the Pulaski County chancellor's order. In doing so, he terminated his alimony and health insurance premium payments, and reduced his child support to the $5,663.00 monthly amount. Pam appealed the Saline County chancellor's November 17, 1994 decision to this court, and continued her objection and argument that the chancellor was acting outside his venue.

Next, Tony's appeal from the Pulaski County chancellor's December 15, 1993 order was decided by the court of appeals on June 28, 1995. In that decision, Tortorich I, the court of appeals affirmed the Pulaski County chancellor's award of child support, but found the chancellor had erred in evaluating Tony's business. 1 The court decided that, because the Pulaski County chancellor had made an error in giving Pam a substantial award in Tony's business, the chancellor should, on remand, reconsider an appropriate amount of alimony to be awarded to Pam. On remand, the Pulaski County chancellor held a hearing on October 10, 1995, and later entered an order on February 2, 1996, finding Pam was entitled to increased monthly alimony payments of $2,000, commencing from December 15, 1993, through July 31, 1994. The chancellor's decree adopted as further orders, other findings included in two earlier letter opinions.

After the Tortorich I decision and the Pulaski County chancellor's remand order increasing Tony's alimony, our court decided Pam's appeal which challenged the Saline County chancellor's venue. In our opinion issued June 3, 1996, we held that Pulaski County was the parties' proper venue, and that the Saline County chancellor had erred in refusing to dismiss Tony's divorce action. Accordingly, we reversed and dismissed the Saline County case.

Finally, because Tony had stopped his monthly alimony and health insurance premium payments and had failed to pay in full his monthly $6,000.00 child support payments in accordance with the Pulaski County chancellor's December 15, 1993 order, Pam filed a motion for Tony to show cause why he should not be held in contempt. After a hearing on Pam's motion, the Pulaski County chancellor entered an order on February 28, 1997, in which she declined to find Tony in willful contempt, but did find he was subject to the chancellor's judgment, and found Tony owed the following arrears:

(1) Alimony in the amount of $2,000.00 for twenty-five months, beginning August 1, 1994, and ending August 1, 1996;

(2) Health insurance premium payments in the total amount of $1,884.44 for the periods between May 1, 1994, through April 1, 1995, and May 1, 1995, through August 1996; and

(3) Child support in the amount of $7,181.97, plus interest, for the period between August 1, 1994, and May 1, 1996.

Tony now appeals the Pulaski County chancellor's February 28, 1997 order, and first contends that, because the chancellor's February 7, 1996 remand order only awarded increased monthly alimony payments for the months between December 15, 1993, and July 31, 1994, without specifying that Tony was to continue paying alimony at the increased amount, the chancellor erred when holding he owed alimony arrearages between the months of August 1, 1994, and August 1, 1996. Tony had made his increased alimony payments through July 31, 1994, which, he says, brought him into compliance with the Pulaski County chancellor's orders. We disagree.

Tony bases his argument on language in the Pulaski County chancellor's remand order that provides Pam is entitled to total monthly alimony payments of $2,000.00 from December 15, 1993, through July 31, 1994; but he wholly ignores that order's directive whereby the chancellor incorporated her earlier opinion letters as a part of the court's findings and designated them as "further orders of the court." One of the chancellor's letter opinions dated October 23, 1995, related evidence justifying why alimony should be awarded to Pam and stated that Pam "is entitled to alimony based upon [Tony's] continued practice of oral surgery until her death or remarriage, or until she has established an earning capacity." Quite clearly, the Pulaski County chancellor ordered Tony to pay monthly alimony payments of $2,000.00 that continued past July 31, 1994, and until Pam's death or remarriage or until she established an earning capacity. Thus, the arrears in alimony, insurance premiums, and child support found by the chancellor for the months commencing on August 1, 1994, were in accordance with her orders.


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