Before Sullivan, P.j., Banks And Roberts, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roberts, Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/19/97
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM H. MYERS
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - DOMESTIC RELATIONS
DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED AND RENDERED IN PART - 12/10/98
¶1. In a divorce action, the Chancery Court of Jackson County, Honorable William H. Myers granted Mr. John Watson (hereinafter "Jack") and Mrs. Mary Watson (hereinafter "Mary") a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Judgment was entered in this matter on September 4, 1996. An amended Order was entered on February 19, 1997 and an Amended Judgment Nunc Pro Tunc was filed on July 21, 1997. Pursuant to said Judgments, the Court awarded the following:
1. Divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences as stipulated by the parties.
2. Mary is awarded the exclusive use and possession of the family home located in Moss Point, together with all of its contents. Jack is to pay the monthly mortgage payment on the marital home of the parties, to include taxes and insurance for a period of six years from the date of the Judgment. Afterwards, the marital home shall be sold and the equity divided equally between the parties.
3. Jack is awarded the use and possession of his boat, tools and all items belonging to him which are located in the shop behind the premises of the family home.
4. Mary receives a twenty-five (25%) percent interest in all retirement accounts in Jack's name, in which he had an ownership interest as of the date of the parties' separation and which retirement benefits had accrued during the parties' marriage. This stock shall include the following:
Affiliated Financial Consultant's account - 527319 Affiliated Financial Consultant's account - A6K-801127 Skandia Annuity account - 722985 Savings Bonds
5. Jack is to pay all outstanding medical bills incurred by Mary until the date of the Judgment, including the medical bills of Dr. Roy Dear and Dr. Deal's charges for appearing as an expert witness in the amount of seven hundred twenty ($720.00) dollars.
6. Jack shall pay six thousand ($6,000.00) of Mary's attorney's fees along with all court costs.
Mary was also awarded periodic alimony in the amount of $1,000.00 per month.
¶2. Jack appeals this decision raising the following assignments of error:
I. WHETHER THE CHANCERY COURT ERRED IN AWARDING EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE MARITAL HOME TO MARY AND FURTHER ERRED IN ORDERING JACK TO PAY THE MORTGAGE FOR A PERIOD OF SIX YEARS?
II. WHETHER THE CHANCERY COURT ERRED IN AWARDING PERIODIC ALIMONY TO MARY IN THE AMOUNT OF ONE THOUSAND ($1,000.00) DOLLARS PER MONTH?
III. WHETHER THE CHANCERY COURT ERRED IN ORDERING JACK TO PAY MARY'S MEDICAL BILLS INCURRED THROUGH THE DATE OF THE FINAL JUDGMENT?
IV. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED BY AWARDING MARY AN INTEREST IN THE RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS OF JACK?
V. WHETHER THE CHANCERY COURT ERRED IN REGARD TO THE DIVISION OF PERSONAL PROPERTY OF THE PARTIES?
VI. WHETHER THE CHANCERY COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO CONSIDER MARY'S SUBSTANTIAL ASSETS AS MARITAL PROPERTY SUBJECT TO DIVISION?
VII. WHETHER THE CHANCERY COURT ERRED IN ORDERING JACK TO PAY SUMS OF MONEY PAST THE AGE OF RETIREMENT?
VIII.WHETHER THE CHANCERY COURT ERRED IN AWARDING ATTORNEY'S FEES TO MARY?
¶3. Jack first met Mary, a citizen of Malaysia, while he was working in Singapore with Chevron. Approximately one year later, Jack returned to Singapore where he renewed his acquaintance with Mary. Jack suggested that Mary visit her sister and adopted son living in England and afterwards, visit him in Germany where he would be located in November. During the course of her travels, Mary's money and passport were stolen. While waiting in England to obtain a new passport, Jack proposed to Mary. She agreed to marry Jack. Mary stayed with her sister in England while Jack made arrangements for her visa to the United States. This process took approximately nine months. Mary arrived in the United States in April 1988, and the couple married on July 30, 1988. During the course of the marriage, there were no children born unto the parties.
¶4. Jack retired from the U.S. Coast Guard on August 1, 1970, as a Lt. Commander after approximately twenty (20) years of service. After retiring from the Coast Guard, Jack worked for several years as a plant manager for a steel mill in California. He worked the next few years as a service engineer for Marcona Corp. In 1981, Jack became employed as an engineer with Chevron USA, Pascagoula, Mississippi. He was employed by Chevron at the time he met Mary. After retiring from Chevron in October 1992, Jack became employed with Industrial Maintenance and Machine on a retainer basis only. Jack receives a retainer of $150.00 per week less taxes and Social Security regardless of whether he is called to work or not. At trial, Jack expected his employment to continue as long as it is profitable for the company. Mary was unemployed throughout the course of the parties' marriage.
¶5. Jack owned a boat and resided on the boat prior to and at the time he met Mary. He purchased the boat for $135,000.00. At the time of purchase, Jack put $55,000.00 down on the boat. His monthly payment on the boat is $845.06. When Mary came to the United States, she began living on the boat with Jack. The couple remained on the boat for approximately two years. However, Mary tired of living on the boat and at her request, Jack purchased a home on the waterfront which allowed him to moor the boat behind the marital home. Jack purchased the home for $45,000.00 using $13,500.00 of his own monies as a down payment on the home. The mortgage payments on the home are $386.00 per month which are paid solely by Jack.
¶6. When Mary arrived in the United States, she had a very poor command of the English language, and was unable to read or write. She has not held any type of job. Furthermore, she has never been to school, except for the classes she recently began taking to learn to read and write in English. While married to Jack, Mary did perform household duties such as cooking, cleaning, washing, and taking care of the yard.
¶7. Towards the end of the marriage, Mary complained of depression and sought medical attention from Dr. Roy Deal, a psychiatrist. Dr. Deal treated Mary and testified that Mary suffered from depression long before she met Jack and that she had been treated in Great Britain many years ago. Dr. Deal stated that Mary is not bi-polar, though she is being treated with Prozac, Trilafon and Lithium, a medication used to treat bi-polar patients. Mary has suicidal tendencies and has been hospitalized as a result of these tendencies. Dr. Deal testified that he thinks Mary is high risk for suicide. There was also disputed testimony regarding whether Mary suffered from an alcohol problem, gambling problem and violent behavior towards her husband and family members. Mary's medical bills total $750.00.
¶8. The parties separated on June 4, 1994. At the time of trial, Mary was sixty (60) years old, born October 4, 1935, and Jack was sixty-four (64) years old, born March 27, 1931.
¶9. Jack's income during the course of the marriage was as follows: