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NOVELLA H. THOMPSON v. RAY P. THOMPSON

APRIL 13, 1988

NOVELLA H. THOMPSON
v.
RAY P. THOMPSON



BEFORE HAWKINS, P.J., PRATHER AND SULLIVAN, JJ.

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

The central issue of this appeal addresses whether a chancery court may order a division of marital assets after denying both parties a divorce while granting the wife separate maintenance. The Chancery Court of Madison County denied both Novella H. Thompson and Ray P. Thompson their separate requests for a divorce, but granted Mrs. Novella Thompson separate maintenance and ordered division of their marital property.

Novella Thompson, the appellant, assigns the following as error:

 (1) The chancery court erred in divesting appellant of her undivided one-half interest in real property.

 (2) The chancery court erred in divesting appellant of $750,000 in certificates of deposit on deposit at Trustmark National Bank and adjudicating these certificates to be the property of appellee.

 (3) The chancery court erred in failing to enter an order to compel discovery of appellee's assets.

 (4) In the alternative, the chancery court committed manifest error in its division of the marital assets of the parties.

 (5) In the alternative, the court's allowance of $2,000 per month as separate maintenance is so grossly inadequate as to shock the conscience.

 I.

 Ray P. Thompson and Novella H. Thompson were married on April 5, 1947 and separated on April 16, 1984. Two daughters were born to the marriage, Nancy - born February 12, 1948 and Barbara - born July 28, 1950. The Thompsons also adopted a son, Pat, who was born on July 2, 1959. Both of the girls born to the Thompsons suffered from Cystic Fibrosis from which illness Nancy died in 1972.

 When Mr. Thompson entered into the marriage, the total value of all assets owned by him was approximately $1,500. The majority of those assets was comprised of $1,000 cash given to him by his father as a wedding gift. Mrs. Thompson

 was possessed of neither real nor personal property at the time that she entered into the marriage with the exception of modest clothing and personal items.

 At the commencement of the marriage, Mr. Thompson earned $60.00 per week working in his father's automobile business in Morton, Mississippi. Mr. Thompson worked in various capacities, ranging from salesman to mechanic. Mrs. Thompson was unemployed at the commencement of the marriage and remained unemployed until 1963. In 1955, when Mr. Thompson's father died, the family automobile business passed to him and his brother. In 1957, Mr. Thompson conveyed his 50% interest in the family automobile business to his brother in exchange for $35,000. Mr. Thompson used these funds, together with an additional $30,000 borrowed from the First National Bank in Canton, Mississippi, to purchase the Latimer Ford business in Canton, Mississippi.

 During the first five years Mr. Thompson operated the business, he worked extraordinarily long hours in all aspects of the business. By 1959, he had entered into the automobile leasing business and prospered at an unusual rate. While Mr. Thompson was involved in the Ford dealerships in Morton and, from 1958, in Canton, Mrs. Thompson cared for the children and attended to their medical needs. In 1963, Mrs. Thompson began working in the office of the dealership and continued to work there until 1980. From 1963 until 1979 Mrs. Thompson was not paid a salary for her work at the dealership. However, in 1978 she was started on a salary of $750.00 per month and up until 1980 she received a monthly salary which eventually grew to $1,000.00 a month. The dealership was dissolved in February, 1981.

 Throughout the marriage, Mrs. Thompson's primary responsibility was the care and maintenance of the minor children of the parties. As a direct result of their illnesses, both Nancy and Barbara required special medications and substantial physical therapy each day. In addition, both girls were subject to extended periods of hospitalization. In 1963, in an effort to alleviate the stress experienced by Mrs. Thompson as a result of caring for the minor children, Mr. Thompson encouraged Mrs. Thompson to participate in the operation of the dealership. As the health of the daughters permitted, Mrs. Thompson would work up to 40 hours per week, closing the books of the business at the end of the month, doing odd filing, and replacing those clerical employees of Thompson Ford on temporary leave.

 Although Mrs. Thompson received a salary only in the years 1978, 1979 and 1980, from 1963 ...


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