Articles Posted in Family Law

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In 2014, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued its opinion in Gutierrez v. Gutierrez, 153 So.3d 703 (2014), affirming the chancellor’s judgment in part and reversing it in part, remanding the case for the resolution of three overarching issues. Clayton Gutierrez appealed the chancellor’s decisions concerning the issues on remand, outlined in the chancery court’s September 22, 2015, December 29, 2015, and February 26, 2016, orders. In all, Clayton raised five alleged errors. Finding that the court neither abused its discretion nor erred in its decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s judgments on the matter. View "Gutierrez v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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A widow challenged the Court of Appeals’ finding persuasive that she abandoned her marriage; when her husband died, she received only a child’s share of his estate. After dating for approximately six months; Sarah Young and Joe Estes married in 2006. Young entered the marriage with four natural children and three adopted minor grandchildren; Estes entered with several grown children. After marrying Estes, Young continued to maintain a home with her grandchildren where she had lived prior to the marriage. As noted by the chancellor, Estes’s and Young’s “living arrangement was somewhat non-traditional.” Despite this, the record shows that Young split her time between her children and Estes. She testified that she slept at his house when she was not working nights and prepared at least one meal a day for Estes. Following a short hospitalization, Young contended Estes’ behavior changed. She testified he lashed out at her. After Estes accused Young of adultery, she elected to separate from him. Estes’s family members testified that they, unlike Young, were very supportive of Estes following the hospitalization. In addition to finding Young absent, several family members testified that Young was stealing groceries to feed her own children. After Estes had refused to seek medical or mental help, Young initiated involuntary-commitment proceedings against Estes. The evaluation concluded that Estes competent, and not a danger to himself or anyone else. Estes was released from psychiatric care. Immediately thereafter, Young filed for divorce. Shortly after Estes received notice of the final divorce hearing, he shot and killed himself. Estes’s will did not provide for Young to inherit anything from his estate. Young renounced the will. The trial court granted Young a $12,000 widow’s allowance as well as a one-fifth, child’s share of the estate. She appealed, challenging the child’s share of the estate. Finding that the chancellor did not manifestly err when he determined that Young had not abandoned the marital relationship and was entitled to a child’s share of Estes’s estate, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, affirmed the judgment of the Chancery Court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Estate of Joe Howard Estes v. Young-Estes" on Justia Law

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An order of divorce was entered in 2008. This case made its third trip to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Drake Lewis appealed two issues: (1) the order of divorce should have been voided due to a lack of jurisdiction and that the chancellor erred in finding that he resided in Harrison County (he claimed improper venue for the suit); and (2) the chancellor erred in entering an order of contempt against him. Finding no error, the Court affirmed the judgment of the chancellor on both issues. View "Lewis v. (Lewis) Pagel" on Justia Law

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The parties ultimately agreed to an irreconcilable differences divorce, with the chancery court to decide certain issues: child custody, visitation, equitable division of property and attorney fees. The bulk of Candice Ballard’s appeal centered on the court’s order denying her custody of the parties’ three minor children based upon the chancery court’s determination that both Candice and Marshall Ballard were “unfit” and that neither should be awarded custody pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 93-5-24-(9)(a)(ii) (the “family-violence presumption”). The chancery court awarded custody to the Mississippi Department of Human Services but placed the children with Marshall’s parents. Candice challenged the custody decision, arguing the chancellor relied strictly on hearsay to establish her “unfitness” and history of family violence. She also argued the chancery court erred in dividing the marital estate and awarding attorney’s fees. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded with respect to the issues of custody and division of the marital estate; with respect to fees, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ballard v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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Leslie Shumake appealed a Chancery Court judgment that found him in contempt for failure to pay his alimony obligations, denied his motion to modify alimony, and placed an equitable lien on his law practice to secure the payment of future alimony. Shumake argued that the chancellor erred by imposing the equitable lien, abused his discretion by failing to grant the motion to modify alimony, erred by rejecting his inability-to-pay defense to the contempt action, erred in the award of attorney fees, and erred by awarding Ms. Shumake the unpaid balance of the arrearage on the parties’ former first mortgage. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed on all issues except the chancellor’s award of attorney fees for Ms. Shumake’s successful contempt action. The Court reversed the attorney fee award and remanded for the chancellor to subtract the fees attributable to Ms. Shumake’s defense of Mr. Shumake’s modification action. View "Shumake v. Shumake" on Justia Law

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Milton and Geneva Martin sought grandparent visitation with their two grandsons after they were denied visitation by Kimberly and Brandon Smith, the children’s biological mother and adoptive father. Marty Martin, the children’s father and the Martins’ son, was deceased. The Chancery Court granted grandparent visitation to the Martins, the Smiths appealed, and the case was assigned to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which affirmed. After review, the Supreme Court found no error with the Court of Appeals or the Chancery Court’s orders, and affirmed. View "Smith v. Martin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Frank Hartley Jr. appealed the final judgment of the Chancery Court terminating his parental rights to his two biological children, A.B. and B.H., and granting an adoption to John D. and Lenita S. Watts. Finding that the judgment was supported by clear and convincing evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hartley v. Watts" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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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

Posted in: Family 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