Articles Posted in Mississippi Supreme Court

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John Ravenstein appealed a 2012 Chancery Court judgment appointing his ex-wife Elisha Ravenstein Hawkins as conservator for the couple’s adult son Ryan. John also appealed the court’s denial of his motions for relief from judgment and modification of child support, through which he attempted to terminate his duty to support Ryan financially. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the chancellor correctly denied John’s motion for relief from the divorce judgment and motion for modification of child support. However, the Court found that the chancery court applied an incorrect legal standard for appointing a conservator for Ryan. Accordingly, it reversed the chancery court’s appointment of Elisha as Ryan’s conservator and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Ravenstein v. Ravenstein (Hawkins)" on Justia Law

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Andrea Gaiennie and Michael McMillin entered a divorce decree on the ground of irreconcilable differences. In conjunction with the divorce decree, the parties entered into a property-settlement agreement. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Chancery Court’s finding that Gaiennie was required to pay for one-half of her children’s private-school tuition, and a related contempt issue were in error. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that, because private-school tuition was not specified in the agreement, the chancellor’s holding requiring Gaiennie to pay for one-half of the children’s private-school tuition was in error. With respect to the contempt issue, the Court found the Chancery Court abused its discretion: under the terms of the property-settlement agreement, Gaiennie was required to contribute $500 annually to the “Mississippi Impact Fund.” Trial testimony established that no fund existed. Instead, McMillin’s father had established a “Mississippi Education Savings Program.” Neither party sought to modify the agreement to reflect the correct fund. It was impossible for her to comply with the agreement as written. Thus, it was an abuse of discretion to hold her in contempt. View "Gaiennie v. McMillin" on Justia Law

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Michael Huseth (Mike) appealed a Chancery Court judgment which granted his wife Tavia Huseth an award of separate maintenance, full physical custody of their son, and attorney fees. Tavia requested attorney fees on appeal equal to half of the fees she was awarded at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s judgment in part, reversed in part and remanded the case to the chancery court, and the Court denied Tavia’s request for attorney fees on appeal. The chancellor’s grant of separate maintenance and child support was supported by substantial evidence and was not manifestly wrong. The chancellor’s determination of the amount of imputed income was not supported by sufficient findings by the chancellor, and in the absence of her specific computation of the amount, was reversed and remanded for specific findings detailing how the chancellor arrived at that amount, and upon what she relied. Because the Court reversed and remanded for a new finding of imputed income, the Court also reversed and remanded the chancellor’s determination of child support, in which the chancellor shall consider all of the facts and circumstances regarding the parties’ ability to support the child, rather than relying on the statutory guidelines. Further, the chancellor’s award of separate maintenance did not take into account Mike’s necessary living expenses, and therefore was reversed. The amount of separate maintenance may be based upon imputed income, but the amount of that income that goes towards living expenses must be considered. View "Huseth v. Huseth" on Justia Law

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In this guardianship case, the ward's guardian petitioned for transfer of the guardianship to Louisiana, where the ward and guardian had moved. The chancellor denied both the request to transfer the guardianship and the guardian's proposed investment plan, and the guardian appealed. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Deason v. Stinson" on Justia Law

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A mother sued the Department of Human Services (DHS) after the death of her son in the home in which DHS placed him. Austin Watkins was removed from the home of his mother, Tammy Watkins, and placed in the home of his paternal grandmother, Janice Mowdy. Approximately a year and a half after Mowdy was awarded durable legal custody of Austin, Austin died from starvation. The trial court granted DHS’s motion for summary judgment, determining that DHS enjoyed sovereign immunity from liability for the acts alleged in the complaint. Upon review of the facts and circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Watkins v. Mississippi Dept. of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Martin and Star Pierce were married in Mississippi in 2000, and divorced in Washington state in 2007. Because the Washington court lacked personal jurisdiction over Star, it did not divide the parties' assets. Subsequently, Martin brought an action in Mississippi requesting sale of the parties' Biloxi home and determination of the parties' financial obligations incurred during the marriage. Star filed a counterclaim requesting equitable distribution of the marital assets, alimony, and attorney's fees. The chancellor equitably divided the parties' assets and awarded Star alimony and attorney's fees. Martin appealed the chancellor's judgment, and the Court of Appeals reversed the property division and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, Martin raised two jurisdictional challenges for the first time: (1) he argued that the Washington judgment was res judicata as to Star's claims for equitable distribution and alimony, therefore the chancery court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to divide the parties' assets.; (2) he also argued that because he never consented to the chancery court's jurisdiction, the chancery court lacked personal jurisdiction to divide his military retirement benefits under the Federal Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. Upon review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error. Accordingly the Court affirmed the chancery court's decision. View "Pierce v. Pierce" on Justia Law

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The Chancery Court appointed conservators over the person and estate of Stuart Irby. Approximately one year later, Karen Collins Irby, Stuart's ex-wife, filed pleadings to invalidate the conservatorship and set aside the transactions of the conservators. The chancery court denied Karen's petition, and she appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Collins v. Pinnacle Trust" on Justia Law

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William Andrew Short (Andy) and Kathryn Taylor Short were divorced in 2007. As part of the divorce judgment, the parties entered into a property, child-support, and child custody agreement stipulating that Andy would pay child support until the child began kindergarten; thereafter, he would pay fifteen percent of his adjusted gross income. In 2011, Kathryn filed a complaint for contempt, alleging that Andy had failed to make child-support payments. Andy filed a counter-complaint for custody and to modify child support. Andy alleged a material change in circumstances because of a significant reduction in his adjusted gross income, requiring a new child-support calculation. The chancellor found that no material change in circumstances had occurred and ordered Andy to continue paying the minimum requirement of child support, pursuant to the original child-support agreement. Andy appealed, arguing that the chancellor had disregarded statutory child-support guidelines, that the child-support provision in the parties’ agreement violated Mississippi law, and that the chancellor had erred in calculating Andy’s adjusted gross income. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding no error. Andy filed a petition for writ of certiorari, arguing (among other things) that the Court of Appeals had failed to address his argument that the automatic child-support-calculation clause violated Mississippi law. The Supreme Court found that the chancellor erred in calculating Andy’s monthly income during his determination of whether a material change in circumstances existed. Further, the chancellor’s ruling erroneously indicated that the parties’ child-support agreement was nonmodifiable. Therefore, the judgments of both the Court of Appeals and the trial court were reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings. View "Short v. Short" on Justia Law

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Rosemary Finch filed a complaint for separate maintenance, and her husband Stewart Finch responded with a counterclaim for divorce. In the course of their divorce proceedings, Rosemary and Stewart were required by Mississippi Chancery Court Rule 8.05 to provide a comprehensive financial statement listing their individual incomes and expenses and their marital and nonmarital assets and liabilities. The chancellor retroactively reduced alimony from $4,000 to $2,000 per month based on Rosemary’s failure adequately to disclose social security payments, additional debts, and a joint account with her mother, and Stewart having to pay for both Rosemary’s and his daughter’s vehicles in order to transfer title pursuant to the divorce judgment. In addition, Stewart was paying more than $800 per month to satisfy the additional marital debts. The chancellor retroactively reduced child support from $1,300 to $900 per month and further relieved Stewart of the obligation to pay any of his son’s educational expenses. Rosemary appealed this judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the chancery court. Based on the facts of this case, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further factual findings regarding Stewart’s income and for a recalculation of alimony and child support. View "Finch v. Finch" on Justia Law

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Donald and Penny Brewer (through their respective attorneys) negotiated, agreed to, and signed off on a proposed order that changed custody of one of the parties’ two children, John, to Donald, and reduced his child-support obligation. Although the attorneys failed to present the order to the chancellor, the Brewers, believing it had been entered, complied with its terms for several years. But when the chancellor later learned that Donald had paid the reduced amount of child support, he refused to admit any evidence of the agreement, ordered Donald to pay the full amount of arrearage, and held him in contempt. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Donald should not have been held in contempt; that he was entitled to credit for any payment of support he made directly to, or on behalf of, John; and that the chancellor should have granted Penny a judgment for past-due child support, reduced by the credit. View "Brewer v. Holliday" on Justia Law