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WILLIAM H. MASSEY v. MARTHA E. MASSEY

AUGUST 28, 1985

WILLIAM H. MASSEY
v.
MARTHA E. MASSEY



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, ROBERTSON AND SULLIVAN

SULLIVAN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Martha E. Massey received a decree of divorce from Robert J. Kelly, master, and Leon E. Hannaford, Sr., Chancellor of DeSoto County, Mississippi, which judgment granted her a divorce on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Among other things, Martha Massey received $428.80 per month as alimony to commence on October 1, 1983, and to run for a term of thirty-six months. At the conclusion of the thirty-six months, Martha Massey was required to bring further action before the Chancery Court to determine the status of the parties at that time for the court to determine whether or not alimony should continue.

Martha Massey was further awarded $7,600 as a cash division of the parties, based on Martha Massey's contribution to the marriage, this lump sum award to be paid in monthly installments of $100 a month commencing on October 1, 1983, and continuing until paid in full.

 Martha Massey was awarded as attorney's fees to be paid to her attorney of record the sum of $1,500, which sum was to be paid in monthly installments of $50 per month beginning on October 1, 1983, and continuing until $1500 had been paid.

 On appeal, William H. Massey assigns two errors:

 1. The court erred in overruling appellant's motion for a new trial.

 2. The court's award of alimony, division of property and award of attorney's fees to appellee's attorney is grossly oppressive and unjust, against the overwhelming weight of the evidence and an abuse of discretion.

 We will discuss these assignments of error in inverse order.

 I.

 WAS THE COURT'S AWARD OF ALIMONY, DIVISION OF JOINT

 PROPERTY AND AWARD OF ATTORNEY'S FEES GROSSLY OPPRESSIVE AND UNJUST, AGAINST THE OVERWHELMING WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE, AND AN ABUSE OF THE CHANCELLOR'S DISCRETION?

 It is well settled in this state that the determination of an amount of support or alimony in a divorce case is within the chancellor's sound discretion and such will not be disturbed unless the chancellor abused his discretion by awarding an amount of support or alimony which is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. See Martin v. Martin, 271 So. 2d 391 (Miss. 1972); Harell v. Harell, 231 So. 2d 793 (Miss. 1970).

 Among the items the chancellor must consider in determining the amount of support payable to a wife are "not only the reasonable needs of the wife but also the right of the husband `to lead as normal a life as reasonably possible with a decent standard of living'." Hopton v. Hopton, 342 So. 2d 1298, 1300 (Miss. 1977), quoting Nichols v. Nichols, 254 So. 2d 726, 727 (Miss. 1971).

 On the facts of this record, the chancellor did not abuse his discretion on the amount of the awards granted. Mrs. Massey, by the time of the divorce, was in poor health, had no assets or income of her own and was unable to get work because of her health. During the life of the marriage, Mrs. Massey had been employed and had helped to pay the expenses of herself and her husband. Mrs. Massey worked side by side with her husband on the farm, contributing with him to the well-being of both of the parties. Mr. Massey, who had few expenses, was left with a monthly income of approximately $500.00.

 There is no merit to this assignment of error insofar as it attacks the amounts of support and attorney's fees awarded by the chancellor.

 However, we do find the chancellor's decree defective in one particular. The decree directed the payment of attorney's fees directly to the attorney for Mrs. Massey rather than to Mrs. Massey for her use and benefit to be applied to attorney's fees. This is error. Parker v. Parker, 71 Miss. ...


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