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MARTHA LYNN WHITE v. DUDLEY HEARN WHITE

DECEMBER 20, 1989

MARTHA LYNN WHITE
v.
DUDLEY HEARN WHITE



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, PRATHER AND ANDERSON

ANDERSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

After a four day hearing, February 22-23 and April 27-28, 1988, Martha Lynn White and Dudley Hearn White were granted a divorce on June 7, 1988. The chancellor granted the divorce to the parties on the ground of habitual, cruel and inhuman treatment as proved by Mrs. White. Mrs. White appeals this judgment assigning five errors, only one of which has merit and requires that we reverse and remand. Mr. White cross assigns on six issues, five of which are responses to Mrs. White's assignments; however, these assignments are meritless, and they will not be discussed.

Mr. and Mrs. White were married on November 5, 1967. This was the second marriage for the parties, and each of them had children from the previous marriage; however no children were born as a result of this union.

 Between the time of her first divorce and when she met Mr. White, Mrs. White held several jobs: clerk for the biology department at the University of Southern Mississippi for five to seven months; clerk for Dr. Willard Boggan for six to eight months; clerk/secretary/receptionist for Thurman Pitts Interior Decorators for nine months to a year; and library assistant at the Mississippi Law Library for approximately one year. She remained at the Law Library until the spring of 1968 when she quit her job at the request of her husband and began to assist him at his office.

 While working with her husband, Mrs. White did clerical work and went with him to job sites and property inspections. In 1970 Mrs. White received her real estate license. This allowed her to sell real estate for her husband's real estate company, and a portion of her commission went to the company.

 To further the development and promotion of the company, Mrs. White became active in the community - joining many organizations including the Jackson Yacht Club, Mississippi Art Association, and Jackson Symphony Orchestra Association. After recognizing the profitability of a multi-unit apartment complex, Mrs. White encouraged her husband to invest in this area of realty instead of single-family housing. Because of encouragement from his wife, Mr. White gradually moved into the multi-living units market instead of single-family housing. As a result Mr. White built the Briars apartment complex, which has a present market value of $1.8 million. Mr. White consulted his wife regarding the floor plans, and she selected the color schemes, draperies and carpets for the units. She also decorated the party room and community rooms.

 In 1976, Mrs. White began employment as a realtor with Jim Lowe. While employed with Mr. Lowe for an eight-month period, she learned about the buying and selling of previously repossessed housing. *fn1 After working with Mr. Lowe, she encouraged her husband to shift gears once again, and they got involved in this market. Just as always, she assisted Mr. White with the redecorating of the kitchens and bathrooms.

 In 1979, Mrs. White contributed to the design, planning and construction of their new residence on St. Andrew's Drive. She recognized the importance of allowing the community to see the quality of Dudley's work and to keep his name before the public. Consequently, she held their home out to the public and listed it on the DAR's list of tours.

 From the inception of the marriage, Mrs. White constantly entertained Mr. White's business associates and was active in charitable functions in order to promote the business of her husband as a successful architect, builder and developer. As a matter of fact, this was one of the underlying reasons for moving to the more spacious house on St. Andrew's Drive. In addition, Mrs. White maintained the family's household and continued to do whatever her husband wanted her to do. When Mr. White's health began to fail in the last years of their marriage, Mrs. White assumed the roles of nurse, driver and companion, and she constantly strived to keep Mr. White as active as his health would permit.

 The parties enjoyed a harmonious marriage until June 16, 1986, when Mr. White without provocation attacked Mrs. White with a steel claw hammer. As a result of this attack, Mrs. White required stitches.

 Testimony indicates that on that morning Mr. White rose early, and as Mrs. White was reading while lying on the couch, he approached her from behind and attacked her with the hammer. As a result of the attack, Mrs. White's medical conditions have worsened. These conditions include: constant problems with her colon, nervousness, headaches and insomnia. Although Mr. White attacked her, Mrs. White has forgiven him and describes Mr. White as a "wonderful human being . . . a marvelous person, and the scariest thing about the incident was that it was totally out of character."

 The defendant/cross appellant maintains that he does not remember striking Mrs. White, but he also indicates that he was provoked by her because of her purchase of a condominium. And, although he believed that she spent more money than was necessary, Mr. White intended that his wife is taken care of after his death. Furthermore, even though she occasionally

 denied him sexual privileges, failed to cook for him or go to Sunday School or church with him, she did not mistreat him, and she was basically good to him. Moreover, this did not create the problem as much as buying the condo had created. As a matter of fact, they would still be together, but for that purchase.

 Now that we have provided a collection of some of the testimony provided at trial, it is appropriate to examine the facts pertinent to discuss the assignment for which we reverse and remand.

 PROPOSITION I

 WHETHER THE AWARD TO MARTHA LYNN WHITE IN THE FORM OF GROSS OR LUMP SUM ALIMONY IN THE SUM OF FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS ($50,000.00) OR THREE POINT THREE PERCENT (3.3%) OF THE ESTATE OF DUDLEY HEARN WHITE WAS SO INADEQUATE ...


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