Before Pittman, P.j., McRAE And Mills, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/20/96
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JASON H. FLOYD, JR.
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - DOMESTIC RELATIONS
DISPOSITION AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED AND RENDERED IN PART
¶1. On December 20, 1996, Chancellor Jason Floyd granted Barbara Rennie's petition for divorce. He ordered Frederick Rennie to pay $446.00 per month for support of the Rennies' only child, Heather. He also awarded Barbara Rennie a 32% interest in the retirement income that Frederick Rennie received from the United States Government for his service in the United States Air Force. Aggrieved, Frederick Rennie appeals assigning the following issues as error:
I. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT HEATHER RENNIE WAS NOT EMANCIPATED BY LAW AT THE TIME OF THE HEARING.
II. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY NOT ENFORCING THE PROPERTY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT THE PARTIES HAD DRAWN UP IN CONTEMPLATION OF FILING FOR DIVORCE.
III. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN AWARDING BARBARA RENNIE A PORTION OF FREDERICK RENNIE'S RETIREMENT INCOME FROM THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE.
¶2. Frederick and Barbara Rennie were married on March 3, 1972. In 1977, Barbara gave birth to the Rennies' only child, Heather. Frederick served in the United States Air Force from April 1965 until May 1987. From the time they were married until 1984 Barbara traveled with Frederick to different assignments and they lived as man and wife. In 1984 the couple resided in their own home in Long Beach, when Frederick was informed that he must do a tour of duty overseas and that he could either go to Europe or the Pacific area. Frederick chose Europe and was assigned to Germany. Barbara did not want to move to Germany and neither Frederick nor Barbara wanted to pull Heather out of the Long Beach school system. The couple decided that Barbara would stay in Long Beach with Heather. Frederick requested that he be reassigned to Keesler Air Force Base near Long Beach after his tour in Germany. While in Germany, Frederick would return four times a year for two to three days at a time to visit Barbara and Heather. Additionally, Barbara and Heather went to Europe twice to see Frederick. On one trip they visited Scotland, where Frederick had family, and on another occasion they visited Frederick in Germany. Barbara and Frederick did not engage in sexual relations on any of these visits.
¶3. Frederick's tour in Germany ended in 1986 and he was transferred to Whitman Air Force Base in Missouri. Frederick testified that he asked Barbara to join him in Missouri and she refused. At this point he informed her that if she did not move to Missouri with him, then the marriage was over. Barbara testified that Frederick was contemplating retiring in a year and that she did not want to move to Missouri for one year. Instead, Barbara stated that she preferred to stay in Long Beach and wanted Frederick to move back to Long Beach with them when he retired from the Air Force.
¶4. Once Frederick moved to Missouri the marriage began to rapidly deteriorate. Shortly after the move Frederick wrote to Barbara suggesting divorce. Though Frederick still periodically returned to Long Beach to visit Heather, he slept on the couch or in Heather's bed on these trips and she slept with her mother. Heather also regularly visited her father in Missouri. She returned from one of her visits to Missouri to inform Barbara that Frederick was living with another woman. Frederick testified that he did not begin cohabitating with the other woman until 1991, long after the Rennies had decided to divorce. Further, Frederick pointed out that a property settlement agreement which Barbara sent him provided that each party could carry on and conduct his or her private life as if he or she were unmarried. Frederick began paying $500 a month in child support in 1992. On January 2, 1996, Heather gave birth to an illegitimate child, Shane Cobern. Heather's boyfriend, Guy Cobern, affectionately known as Boogie, is Shane's father. In April 1996, Heather moved out of her mother's home and into an apartment with Boogie. Following Heather's move, Frederick reduced his child support payments to $250 per month. At this time, Boogie was working full time, and Heather was working part-time. Heather testified that during this absence from her mother's home, her mother provided some assistance by purchasing some items for Heather and Shane. After only three months on their own, Heather lost her job and she, Boogie, and Shane moved in with Barbara. In August 1996, Frederick stopped paying child support altogether. In September 1996, Heather and Boogie broke up and Boogie moved out. Heather and Shane still reside with Barbara. Heather testified that she has gotten her GED and is seeking a Pell Grant to attend college.
¶5. Frederick testified that after taxes, he brings home about $3500 per month. He stated that he draws $1650 each month from his military retirement pay and that he is currently employed as a systems analyst with CSDI, making $2,633 per month. Barbara testified that she is employed at the ...