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KENNETH W. MORRIS v. ROSALIND J. MORRIS

APRIL 05, 1989

KENNETH W. MORRIS
v.
ROSALIND J. MORRIS



BEFORE HAWKINS, P.J., ROBERTSON AND PITTMAN, JJ.

PITTMAN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Kenneth W. Morris petitioned the Chancery Court of Yazoo County for modification of a divorce decree previously entered by that court. The Chancellor dismissed the petition. Mr. Morris appeals, basing his argument on three assignments of error. Finding these assignments meritless, we affirm.

I.

 The facts in this case are not disputed. Kenneth Morris and Rosalind Morris were married on December 27, 1964. Their marriage produced three children: John Whittington Morris, born June 21, 1970; Thomas Jason Morris, born November 29, 1974; and David Stafford Morris, born February 28, 1981. The couple filed a Joint Complaint for Divorce on August 5, 1986, citing irreconcilable differences as grounds. The couple also filed an Agreement for the Custody and Maintenance of Children and Settlement of All Marital and Property Rights on October 8, 1987. The parties filed an Amended Agreement on November 4, 1987. Both agreements provided for Mr. Morris to pay Nine Hundred Fifty Dollars ($950.00) per month child support, one-half (1/2) of all school supplies and expenses, one-half (1/2) of all camp costs, to provide all hospital, medical and dental insurance for the children, and to pay one-half (1/2) of all medical expenses of the children not covered by the insurance.

 On November 17, 1986, Chancellor E. G. Cortright granted the Judgment for Divorce. The Amended Agreement was attached to the Judgment as Exhibit "A" , and the Judgment specifically ordered that the parties "abide by all the terms and conditions of the said Amended Agreement." Item 12 of the Amended Agreement reads as follows: "Husband and Wife agree that they are financially able to perform each and every obligation stated in this Agreement." It appears that up through this point, neither party had been represented by an attorney, either in the divorce proceedings or in drawing up the Amended Agreement.

 The aforementioned period was a time of financial instability for Mr. Morris. He had been employed for eighteen years by Pennzoil until July, 1986, when he was terminated. Morris received as a result severance pay of Seventeen Hundred Forty Dollars ($1740.00) per month, which lasted from August 1, 1986, to January 16, 1987. During this period, Mr. Morris was employed on a temporary basis by Delta-Inverness Co-op. After his termination from Pennzoil, Mr. Morris attended a career-change seminar, and later sent his resume to a number of employers. He registered with Job Service in Sunflower and Washington Counties, and also with the Louisiana Employment Security Commission. His sole offer was from Uncle Ben's in

 Greenville, and he accepted and began work in February, 1987, at a take-home salary of Nine Hundred Seventy Two Dollars ($972.00) per month. Mr. Morris was aware in November, 1986, when he signed the Amended Agreement, that his severance pay would run out in January, 1987, and was also aware that after the severance pay ran out he had no confirmed employment. Mrs. Morris' financial situation did not change during this period.

 On March 2, 1987, Kenneth Morris, represented by counsel, filed a Petition for Modification for Final Decree. In it Mr. Morris alleged that there had been a substantial material change in his financial status which merited a modification of the final divorce decree. Mr. Morris asked that he be allowed to reduce his child support payments under the Amended Agreement to a figure not to exceed Three Hundred Dollars ($300.00) per month. Mrs. Morris answered the Petition and denied that there had been any such material change which would allow modification of the Amended Agreement as incorporated by the Final Decree.

 The cause came on for hearing on March 16, 1987, in the Chancery Court of Yazoo County, Mississippi. The Chancellor issued his opinion on March 21, 1987. In dismissing the Petition for Modification, the court was "at a loss as to what the material change of circumstances since the rendition of the Judgment for Divorce could be." The Chancellor reasoned that although Mr. Morris had less income in February than he had in November when he had agreed to the settlement, "he knew that would be the case when he entered into the Agreement, stating that he was financially able to perform its terms." The opinion added that "there [had] not been a material change in the circumstances since the rendition of the divorce judgment that would warrant a modification to be in the best interest of the children."

 II.

 Kenneth Morris argues first that the reduction in his income from Seventeen Hundred Forty Dollars ($1740.00) per month to Nine Hundred Seventy Two Dollars ($972.00) per month was a material change in circumstances which entitled him to a in child support payments, and that the Chancellor in not finding so. This Court views Mr. Morris' of error in light of the established standard of review. If substantial evidence supports a chancellor's fact findings, they are beyond this Court's power to disturb. With respect to issues of fact where the chancellor made no specific finding, this Court proceeds on the assumption that the chancellor resolved all such fact issues in favor of the

 appellee, or at least in a manner consistent with the decree. Tedford v. Dempsey, 437 So. 2d 410, 417 (Miss. 1983).

 Modification of divorce decrees is governed by Miss. Code Ann. 93-5-23 (Supp. 1988), which states in part:

 When a divorce shall be decreed from the bonds of matrimony, the court may, in its discretion, having regard to the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case, as may seem equitable and just, make all orders touching the care, custody and maintenance of the children of the marriage, and also touching the maintenance and alimony of the wife or the husband, or any allowance to be made to her or him, and shall, if need be, require bond, sureties or other guarantee for the payment so allowed. Orders touching on the custody of the children of the marriage may be made in accordance with the provisions of Section 93-5-24. The court may afterwards, on petition, change the decree, and make from time to time such new decrees as the case may require. However, where proof shows that both parents have ...


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