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White v. White

October 13, 1998

ANDERSON WHITE, II APPELLANT
v.
CORA GAULTNEY WHITE APPELLEE



Before Thomas, P.j., King, And Southwick, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King, J.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/29/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM L. GRIFFIN JR.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WARREN COUNTY CHANCERY COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - DOMESTIC RELATIONS

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DIVORCE ON GROUND OF IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES.

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED - 10/13/98

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

CERTIORARI FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

¶1. Anderson White, Jr. and Cora Gaultney White were granted a divorce in the Warren County Chancery Court on the ground of irreconcilable differences. Feeling aggrieved by the chancellor's division of martial property and the amount of child support awarded, Mr. White has appealed and assigned the following errors:

1. The lower court erred in divesting Appellant of title to the marital residence acquired during the marriage of the parties.

2. The lower court erred in setting the amount of child support.

We affirm.

Facts

¶2. The Whites were married on September 16, 1992. One child was born to that union on November 9, 1995. The parties separated on December 24, 1995, when Mrs. White, along with the minor child, left the marital domicile to reside with her mother.

¶3. On January 9, 1996, Mrs. White filed for divorce in the Warren County Chancery Court alleging habitual cruel and inhuman treatment or, in the alternative, irreconcilable differences. On April 29, 1997, the parties were granted a divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences.

¶4. Mrs. White, along with her mother, owned two homes in Vicksburg. When first married, the Whites lived rent free in one of those homes. Approximately two months prior to their separation, the Whites purchased a home. The Whites made no down payment upon this purchase. Instead one of the homes, owned jointly by Mrs. White and her mother, was used as collateral to ensure payment of the purchase price of the marital residence. This same home was also used as collateral for a loan to purchase a Nissan truck, the couples's only other marital asset. *fn1

¶5. Mrs. White, who has a high school education, works as a cosmetologist earning approximately $1200 per month after expenses and tax deductions. She operates the business out of one of the jointly owned homes.

¶6. Mr. White, who has a college degree, has been employed by Warren-Yazoo Mental Health and the U.S. Corp of Engineers. The highest salary received by Mr. White was $17,500 from Warren-Yazoo Mental Health. Mr. White was unemployed at the time of this divorce and had been unemployed since November 22, 1996.

¶7. After the separation, Mr. White purchased two cars (a 1994 Mazda and 1992 Camaro). He testified that these cars were purchased out of depression, to build up his self-esteem. He also testified that both vehicles were being repossessed.

¶8. The chancellor awarded Mrs. White sole physical custody of the minor child. He also awarded her the sole use and possession of the marital domicile and the baby's furniture. She was ordered to pay credit card debts of $1700 and $3200.

¶9. Mr. White was awarded all household furnishings and was ordered to pay a $3500 credit card debt. Mr. White was ordered to pay $178.50 a month in child support. *fn2 Mr. White was receiving $780 per month in unemployment benefits at the time of the divorce.

Discussion

I. DID THE CHANCELLOR ERR IN DIVESTING ANDERSON OF TITLE TO THE MARITAL RESIDENCE ACQUIRED DURING THE MARRIAGE?

¶10. Mr. White argues that the chancellor committed an abuse of discretion in awarding Mrs. White sole use and possession of the marital residence. In support of this contention, he states that Mrs. White is the joint owner of two other homes in Vicksburg and that he contributed a substantial amount of money ($3500) toward the procurement of the marital domicile. *fn3

¶11. Mrs. White counters that the chancellor did not commit manifest error in awarding the marital residence to her because it was secured by a home which she owned jointly with her mother. Mrs. White testified that Mr. White made no financial contribution toward the procurement of the marital residence.

¶12. In explanation of his decision to divest Mr. White of title to the marital residence, the chancellor made the following on the record finding:

I'll be very frank with you, Mr. White, you can't afford [the marital residence], there's no equity in it. You will execute a deed to Mrs. White for that house. . . .You can have everything in the house except the baby furniture, but you will vacate the house. Everything else in the house you can have.

¶13. On the date of the hearing, April 14, 1997, Mr. White had been unemployed since November 22, 1996, and was receiving $780 per month in unemployment benefits. The two cars which Mr. White had purchased after the parties separated were being repossessed, and the marital residence was secured by assets of Mrs. White's separate estate. Clearly, Mr. White lacked the resources to make the monthly payments on the home or to maintain it.

¶14. "This Court will not disturb a chancellor's findings unless manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous, or if the chancellor applied an erroneous legal standard." Knutson v. Knutson, 704 So. 2d 1331, 1332 (Miss. 1997), (quoting Johnson v. Johnson, 650 So. 2d 1281, 1285 (Miss. 1994)).

ΒΆ15. We note that the chancellor did perform an equitable division of the marital assets. In addition to being awarded all the household furnishings, excluding the baby's furniture, Mr. White was awarded ...


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