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WALTER McCOLLUM v. STATE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE

MARCH 28, 1984

WALTER McCOLLUM
v.
STATE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, HAWKINS, AND DAN LEE

HAWKINS, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Walter McCollum appeals from a decree of the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County requiring him to make monthly support payments to his minor child.

This was a suit to establish paternity and child support brought by the Mississippi Department of Public Welfare under two separate statutes, and because the chancellor erred in refusing to sustain either a motion for a change of venue, or motion to make the natural mother a party and hear a cross-bill against her for custody, we reverse and remand. Our reasoning follows.

 On December 30, 1981, the State Department of Public Welfare (DPW) filed a bill of complaint against Walter McCollum for child support of his daughter Wendy L. Carr, born October 2, 1973. The complaint was filed in the First Judicial District of Hinds County, the residence of the mother, Queen Collins; McCollum was an adult resident of Simpson County.

 McCollum was served on January 11, 1982, with a citation to appear before the Chancery Court on February 25, 1982. On that day he appeared, filed an answer admitting paternity and an ability to support the child, and also a cross-bill praying for custody. He also filed three motions: (1) to change venue to Simpson County; (2) for a continuance; and (3) for the mother to be made a party to the cross-bill.

 The chancellor overruled the three motions and

 conducted a hearing. McCollum testified he had last seen his daughter in July, 1981, when he kept her for three weeks. Also, McCollum testified the child was kept in a ghetto and that he had been unable to see her in December, 1981, when he wanted to assist her with food and clothing.

 Queen Collins testified she lived in Jackson, and that she had been receiving welfare assistance for Wendy and her other children. She said he was married to Joe Willie Collins, but separated from him, and that her home condition was good. She denied ever interfering with McCollum seeing his daughter.

 During the hearing the chancellor stated that if McCollum was contributing to Wendy's support, he was entitled to know where she was at all times, and he was going to provide for visitation rights. He further observed that the welfare department would need to keep McCollum informed as to her whereabouts at all times.

 In the course of the hearing, McCollum tendered his wife as a witness. The following transpired:

 BY MS. GRIGGINS:

 Your Honor, we have a witness.

 BY THE COURT:

 Are you going to call ...


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