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Mercier v. Mercier

July 23, 1998

MARGARET SKINNER MERCIER
v.
STEVE MERCIER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, Justice

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/30/96

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM ROBERT TAYLOR, JR.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MARION COUNTY CHANCERY COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - CUSTODY

DISPOSITION AFFIRMED

EN BANC.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

¶1. Margaret Skinner Mercier appeals from a decision of the Chancery Court in Marion County awarding full physical custody of her daughter, Dusty Richelle Mercier, to Steve Mercier, the child's father. Aggrieved, Margaret Mercier brings this appeal assigning the following issue as error:

I. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN APPLYING THE ALBRIGHT FACTORS IN A CUSTODY CASE AND REFUSING TO AWARD PHYSICAL CUSTODY OF A SEVEN-YEAR OLD FEMALE TO HER MOTHER.

STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

¶2. Steve Mercier and Margaret Skinner Mercier were married on March 4, 1988. Dusty Richelle Mercier was born on April 13, 1989, and is the only child produced by this marriage. The parties separated on February 1, 1992, and were divorced on July 2, 1992. Joint legal and physical custody of Dusty was vested in Steve and Margaret, with each having primary custody every other week. Steve was ordered to pay $150 per month in child support and to secure and maintain medical insurance and major medical coverage for Dusty.

¶3. Following the divorce, Steve remarried. His new wife, Lisa, has one child, Sarah, who was nine years old at the time of trial. She resides with them full time. Steve has one other child, Brent Mercier, age seven at the time of trial. Brent lives with his mother. Additionally, Steve and Lisa were expecting a child at the time of this litigation.

¶4. Following the divorce, Margaret married Richard Hitt. At the time of the trial, she and Hitt had divorced and she was residing with her parents and her aunt and attending college working on a bachelor's degree in education.

¶5. On August 2, 1995, Steve filed a Petition to Clarify Final Decree of Divorce, alleging that Margaret had enrolled Dusty in a private academy against his advice and wishes. Margaret answered Steve's petition and counterclaimed that a material and substantial change in circumstances had occurred since the Final Decree of Divorce in that Dusty was now six years old and in school. Steve and Margaret both agreed that joint custody was impractical and not in Dusty's best interest.

¶6. Steve filed an amended petition making the same allegations as those asserted by Margaret in her petition. Both parties argued that they were the fit, suitable and proper persons to have full care and custody of Dusty.

¶7. Following a full trial on March 21, 1996, the chancellor found, upon admission of both parties, that there had been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the Final Decree of Divorce which adversely affected Dusty. The chancellor further found, pursuant to Albright v. Albright , 437 So.2d 1003 (Miss. 1983), that the best interests of the child would be served by granting Steve physical custody and control of Dusty, while granting legal custody to both Steve and Margaret, with Margaret having visitation rights. Additionally, the chancellor ordered Margaret to pay $100 per month in child support.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

ΒΆ8. When reviewing a chancellor's decision, we will accept a chancellor's findings of fact as long as the evidence in the record reasonably supports those findings. Perkins v. Thompson , 609 So.2d 390, 393 (Miss. 1992). In other words, we will not disturb the findings of a chancellor unless those findings are clearly erroneous or an erroneous legal ...


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