Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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This case presented an issue stemming from an interlocutory appeal of the registration of an Ohio-issued divorce decree and the subsequent petition for modification by the obligee, a Mississippi resident. Asserting the continuing and exclusive jurisdiction of the Ohio court in matters involving the modification and alteration of the decree, the obligor-father appealed the chancery court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the obligee-mother’s complaint for modification of the decree. Reviewing the procedural history and the facts of the case, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that: (1) neither the Ohio court nor the parties consented in writing to the transfer of jurisdiction; and (2) because evidence indicated that the Ohio court never relinquished jurisdiction, that court was the proper forum for proceedings on modification. Thus, the Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s ruling and entered judgment in favor of the father, dismissing the mother’s complaint for lack of jurisdiction. View "Hamilton v. Young" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Jennifer and Josh Carter divorced, and Jennifer was granted legal and physical custody of their daughter Delaney. A year later, Josh filed a motion for modification of custody. The Chancery Court awarded Josh physical custody of Delaney, with the parties sharing joint legal custody. Jennifer appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the chancery court. Jennifer sought review of that judgment on certiorari, arguing that the chancellor erred in not appointing a guardian ad litem, because allegations of neglect arose during the course of the proceedings, making such appointment mandatory. Because there were no charges of neglect or abuse as required under Mississippi Code Section 93-5-23, and because insufficient proof was adduced of abuse or neglect, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and Chancery Court. View "Carter v. Carter" on Justia Law

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In 2012 a jury found James Johnson guilty of aggravated domestic violence against his ex-wife. Johnson’s appeal was assigned to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the judgment and remanded the case, finding that the trial court had erred in admitting evidence of prior bad acts without conducting a proper balancing test. The Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for writ of certiorari. Finding that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the trial court did not consider the facts contained in offense reports, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstated and affirmed Johnson’s conviction. View "Johnson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Sean Edwards and Reanna Zyla never married, but had two children together. They lived in Arizona, and in 2010, an Arizona court entered an order establishing the parties’ custodial rights and visitation: joint legal and physical custody. Edwards and Zyla lived together on and off while in Arizona until 2013, when they moved to Mississippi. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court’s review centered on the application of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Specifically, the issue was whether the Warren County Chancery Court erred in deciding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear a custody dispute between Edwards and Zyla. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s judgment, reversed the county court’s registration of the Arizona custody modification and remanded this matter for the county court to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. View "Edwards v. Zyla" on Justia Law

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This was the second appeal of the equitable distribution of assets of Howard Carney III and Andrea Bell Carney by the Chancery Court of Warren County. In the first appeal, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the chancellor manifestly had erred by awarding 100% of the equity in the marital home to the wife without explanation for the award. On remand, the chancellor reweighed the applicable "Ferguson" factors and again awarded 100% of the equity in the marital domicile to Andrea Carney. Howard appealed. Under the deferential standard of review applicable to the decisions of the chancery court, the Supreme Court found that the chancellor’s equitable distribution on remand was not manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed. View "Carney v. Carney" on Justia Law

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During a family counseling meeting, Rachel accused David of molesting their daughter. The Harrison County Department of Human Services (“DHS”) and the Biloxi Police Department investigated the alleged abuse. As part of the investigation, the South Central Mississippi Child Advocacy Center conducted a forensic interview of the couple's daughter "Samantha." During this interview, Samantha made no mention of abuse. And ultimately, neither DHS nor the Biloxi police sought criminal charges or youth-court action against David. Still, Rachel filed her complaint for divorce from David on August 31, 2011, and she continued to claim he had sexually abused their daughter. When sexual-abuse allegations are raised in a child-custody case, a guardian ad litem (GAL) must be appointed to represent the child’s best interest. Here, the appointed GAL made visitation recommendations but was not asked to make a custody recommendation. The chancellor addressed this issue on his own. Upon review of this case, the Supreme Court found the fact that the chancellor made an independent custody assessment was not made in error. Furthermore, there was no error in the chancellor’s ultimate custody decision, evidentiary rulings, and award of costs to the husband. The Supreme Court found however, the chancellor should have explained why he rejected the GAL’s recommendation that the minor children be assessed and counseled. This omission was harmless error and did not require reversal. The Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor's decision. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

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In this case, the issue the appellant raised for further review was the contention that the chancellor erred in awarding a child-support judgment to her son, who was a nonparty to this case. This issue was never raised in the chancery court case at trial or in post-trial motions. As a result, the issue was not properly before the Supreme Court and thus barred from further review. View "Taylor v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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In this case, the natural mother schemed to give away her child without the natural father's consent by falsely claiming in a sworn consent and joinder and in sworn testimony at the adoption proceedings, that she didn't know the child's natural father. The deception caused the court to grant an adoption to a third party based on false, material representations. The natural father discovered the deception and filed a petition to set aside the adoption. The chancellor heard the "independent action" to set aside a "judgment based on fraud." The adoptive parents moved to dismiss the natural father's petition, attacking the father's standing to bring such an action. The chancellor denied the adoptive parents' motion, and finding no error in that denial, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Doe v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Patrick Heiter sought to terminate or reduce his alimony obligation. He argued the chancellor erred in finding that he had failed to prove a material change in circumstances since his divorce from Lindalyn Heiter that would justify termination or modification of alimony. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Heiter v. Heiter" on Justia Law

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Propst Pittman filed a complaint for divorce against Ty Pittman on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. After the presentation of Propst’s evidence, Ty moved for a dismissal under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 41. The chancery court found insufficient evidence to grant the divorce, and thus granted the motion to dismiss. Because the chancery court applied an erroneous legal standard, the Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the Panola County Chancery Court and the Court of Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Pittman v. Pittman" on Justia Law