Before Thomas, P.j., Coleman, And Hinkebein, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coleman, J.,
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/28/96
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PAT H. WATTS, JR.
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - DOMESTIC RELATIONS
TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: APPELLEE AWARDED $700/MO. PERMANENT ALIMONY, $150/MO. PERIODIC ALIMONY, $615 IN CHILD SUPPORT, AND $4000 ATTORNEY FEES
¶1. Thought by some to be the "root of all evil," money is the root of the issue which the husband-appellant, James A. Magee, presents for this Court's resolution in his appeal from the Jackson County Chancery Court's award of a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences to the wife-appellee, Glenda K. Magee. Mr. Magee's primary complaint is that the chancery court erred by severely diminishing his standard of living when it ordered him, first, to pay Ms. Magee child support, permanent alimony, rehabilitative alimony, and, attorney fees and, then, to provide Ms. Magee with health insurance. However, we affirm.
¶2. James A. Magee, appellant, and Glenda K. Magee, appellee, married on August 2, 1969. To their marriage, five children were born: Jason, a son, age twenty-two years and emancipated, Kristopher, a son, age seventeen years, Brandon, a son, age twelve years, Amber, a daughter, age eleven years, who has Downs Syndrome, and Corey, a son, age eight years. At the time of the hearing all of the Magees' children except for Jason were enrolled in the Jackson County Public Schools. Jason worked as an assistant manager for a Burger King restaurant in Pensacola, Florida. During their marriage, Mr. Magee worked as an instrument and electrical mechanic for Chevron Oil Company in Pascagoula. During the first five or six years of their marriage, Ms. Magee, a high school graduate, worked as a secretary. When they began to have children, the Magees decided that Ms. Magee would remain at home to care for their children.
¶3. Ms. Magee filed a complaint for divorce with the Chancery Court of Jackson County on July 7, 1995, in which she charged Mr. Magee with habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Ms. Magee pleaded alternatively the grounds of irreconcilable differences "if the parties [were] able to resolve matters between them and enter into an amicable property settlement agreement." On August 2, 1995, Mr. Magee filed both an answer to Ms. Magee's complaint for divorce, in which he denied that his wife was entitled to a divorce on either ground she alleged, and a counterclaim for divorce in which Mr. Magee charged Ms. Magee with habitual cruel and inhuman treatment but pleaded alternatively that the chancery court award them a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
¶4. On August 28, 1995, the chancery court entered a temporary order by which it awarded to Mr. Magee the temporary use of the martial home and custody of the Magees' three minor sons, Kristopher, Brandon, and Corey. The court awarded Ms. Magee temporary custody of the Magees' daughter, Amber, and it ordered Mr. Magee to pay his wife $1500 per month for temporary alimony and child support. The court did not allocate specific sums for the temporary alimony and child support.
¶5. The Magees executed a consent to divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences by which they agreed to the entry of the chancery court's judgment awarding them a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. They further agreed to sell their jointly owned home on the open market and to divide equally the profit realized from its sale. The Magees' home and four-and-one-half acre parcel of land on which their home was located was mortgage-free. In their consent agreement, the Magees further agreed to permit the court to decide the following issues: (1) custody of their four minor children, (2) visitation of the non-custodial parent, (3) child support, (4) lump sum and periodic alimony, (5) the division of the Magees' personal property, (6), the division "of the other assets of the parties, including . . . [Mr. Magee's] pension, profit sharing, retirement plan and other like investments, IRA's, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposits, bank accounts, cemetery plots, . . . ., (7) division of the liabilities of the parties, and (8) the "assessment of attorney's fees and court costs."
¶6. After a two-day trial in May 1996 the chancellor rendered, first, an opinion of the court on July 9, 1996, and, secondly, an amended opinion of the court on July 17, 1996. On August 12, 1996, the chancery court rendered and entered its judgment of divorce into which it incorporated its findings contained in its amended opinion dated July 17, 1996. The appellant, James A. Magee, Jr., filed a motion for a new trial, alteration or amendment of judgment, or relief from judgment pursuant to Rules 59 and 60 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, to which the appellee, Glenda K. Magee, filed her response. The chancellor heard the Magees' argument on the issues which Mr. Magee presented in his motion and rendered an opinion of the court in which he reviewed the issues. An order incorporating the chancellor's modification of the judgment of divorce was entered on October 28, 1996, and Mr. Magee filed a notice of appeal on November 21, 1996.
III. REVIEW, ANALYSIS, AND RESOLUTION OF THE ISSUE
¶7. We quote verbatim Mr. Magee's one issue as he states it in his brief:
The court erred by requiring the payment by the appellant of temporary alimony, permanent alimony, and lump-sum alimony as well as attorney fees together with other monetary payments thereby requiring the appellant to live with an insufficient income.
A. Chancellor's resolution of the issues
¶8. In the judgment of divorce rendered on August 12, 1996, the chancellor granted Ms. Magee "a divorce of and from James A. Magee, Jr., on the grounds of irreconcilable differences." The chancellor granted to Ms. Magee the "paramount care, custody and control of" Kristopher, Amber, and Corey Magee, and to Mr. Magee he granted the "paramount care, custody and control" of Brandon Magee. The chancellor ordered Mr. Magee to pay Ms. Magee $615 per month "as child support for Amber, Kristopher and Corey . . . ." Mr. Magee was ordered to pay Ms. Magee $700 per month "as permanent alimony" plus $150 per month "for a period of eighteen (18) months as periodic rehabilitative alimony." The chancellor ordered Mr. Magee to "maintain medical insurance on [Ms. Magee] for thirty-six (36) months under COBRA," after which Ms. Magee would then pay for this coverage if she chose to do so. Mr. Magee was further ordered to pay balances of certain medical bills which Ms. Magee and their daughter Amber had incurred in the total amount of $1,786.15. The chancellor awarded Ms. Magee an attorney's fee in the amount of $4,000 and ordered Mr. Magee to pay Ms. Magee at the rate of $500 per month "beginning the first month after execution of his judgment." Later, in the order rendered and entered on October 28, 1996, in response to Mr. Magee's motion for a new trial or other relief, the chancellor granted Ms. Magee a "lien on [Mr. Magee's] interest in the marital home" so that Mr. Magee would pay Ms. Magee her attorney's fee in the amount of $4,000 "from [Mr. Magee's] equity in the home" when it was sold.
¶9. Mr. Magee initiates his argument with the startling pronouncement that "[f]rom the adjusted gross income of $3,075.00 per month . . ., James A. Magee is left with $383.00 per month." He claims that Ms. Magee "is the recipient of monthly benefits from James A. Magee as follows:
1. Child support: $615.00
3. Periodic alimony $150.00
4. Health insurance (Cobra): $187.00
5. Payment on two loans incurred before ...