Contentious Fayetteville custody case remanded for a second time

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed and remanded for a second time a contentious divorce and child custody case, saying a Washington County Circuit judge failed to follow the court's earlier instruction.

The Appeals Court first sent the custody and child support battle between Daniel Montez and Consuela Montez, now Trujillo, back to Judge Joanna Taylor in April with instructions for her to decide which parent should have custody and what child support the other parent should pay, according to the judges' opinion.

The judges said there was overwhelming evidence the two could no longer communicate and their relationship had fallen into such discord they are unable to cooperate in sharing physical care of their two children. Joint custody was no longer in the children's best interest, according to the justices.

Taylor in June again awarded joint custody and entered a written order finding there had been no material change in circumstances and it wasn't in the best interest of the children to change custody, according to the opinion. Taylor found the children benefited from extended time with both parents and ordered the joint custody arrangement to continue. She also ordered the parties to communicate by telephone daily.

Daniel Montez appealed that order, arguing Taylor failed to render a judgment consistent with the Court of Appeals' earlier order.

"Our Supreme Court has long held that the circuit court, upon remand, must execute the mandate," Wednesday's opinion said. "On remand, the court acknowledged our holding that Daniel had established a material change in circumstances warranting modification of custody, but the court nonetheless found that it was in the best interest of the children to continue joint custody. That decision was contrary to our opinion in Montez I. Accordingly, we hold that the circuit court failed to execute our mandate."

The opinion issued Wednesday again reverses and remands the case to Taylor for termination of the joint-custody arrangement and directs her to make a sole-custody determination with a corresponding child-support determination.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Kenneth Hixson agreed with the majority joint custody isn't in the best interest of the children but said he didn't think Taylor failed to follow the court's specific instructions.

NW News on 02/01/2018

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