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Mixon v. Mixon

December 18, 1998

JERRY LANE MIXON APPELLANT
v.
TORI ESTRIDGE MIXON APPELLEE



Before McMILLIN, P.j., Coleman, And Payne, JJ.

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

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/14/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MELVIN MCCLURE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: TATE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - DOMESTIC RELATIONS

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DIVORCE GRANTED; APPELLANT'S VISITATION RESTRICTED; CHILD SUPPORT AND ALIMONY ORDERED; ATTORNEY'S FEES FOR APPELLEE ORDERED

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED AND RENDERED IN PART - 12/18/98

PROCEDURAL POSTURE AND ISSUES PRESENTED

¶1. Tori Estridge Mixon received a divorce from Jerry Lane Mixon on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment by decree of the Tate County Chancery Court, the Honorable Melvin McClure presiding, on July 14, 1997. From this decree, Tori was awarded custody of the couple's two minor children and $900 per month in child support, periodic alimony of $450 per month, and attorney's fees in the amount of $6,500.

¶2. Feeling aggrieved by the chancellor's ruling, Jerry filed this appeal asserting the following six issues:

I. WHETHER THE CHANCELLOR ERRED IN GRANTING TORI A DIVORCE BECAUSE OF HABITUAL CRUEL AND INHUMAN TREATMENT.

II. WHETHER THE CHANCELLOR ERRED IN RESTRICTING JERRY'S VISITATION PRIVILEGES.

III. WHETHER THE CHANCELLOR ABUSED HIS DISCRETION AND COMMITTED MANIFEST ERROR IN HIS DETERMINATION OF THE CHILD SUPPORT AWARD.

IV. WHETHER THE CHANCELLOR ABUSED HIS DISCRETION BY AWARDING TORI $450 PER MONTH IN PERIODIC ALIMONY.

V. WHETHER THE CHANCELLOR ABUSED HIS DISCRETION IN THE EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF THE MARITAL PROPERTY.

VI. WHETHER THE CHANCELLOR ABUSED HIS DISCRETION IN AWARDING TORI ATTORNEY'S FEES.

Upon review of the record and legal precedent, we affirm as to Issues I, III, IV, and V, and reverse and render in part as to Issues II and VI.

FACTS

¶3. Jerry Mixon and Tori Mixon were married in September 1982. This union produced two children, a son, Justin Lane Mixon, and a daughter, Mallori Brooke Mixon. During the marriage, Tori was employed by the Department of Human Services, and Jerry was a self-employed farmer and car salesman. The couple separated in February 1996 but later reconciled. On August 22, 1996, Tori filed her complaint for divorce from Jerry on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, and irreconcilable differences, seeking custody of the couple's two minor children. Additionally, Tori sought a protective order, as a victim of domestic violence, from Jerry. On August 30, 1996, Jerry filed his answer and counterclaim denying all material allegations raised by Tori and claiming several affirmative defenses. On September 3, 1996, the chancellor issued an order of temporary relief for Tori giving her temporary custody of the children and ordering Jerry to pay Tori $1,000 per month in temporary maintenance for child support and residential rent. Jerry was granted bi-weekly overnight visitation with the children and both Tori and Jerry were restrained from contacting one another.

¶4. Subsequent to the temporary order, Tori filed complaints against Jerry for contempt of court: on October 1, 1996, Jerry was held in contempt for violating the no-contact order and for failing to pay temporary maintenance, and on November 12, 1996, Jerry was held in contempt of court for violating the no-contact order and sentenced to serve forty-eight hours in jail.

¶5. On January 16 and 22-23, 1997, the chancellor conducted a trial on the merits in this matter. At the trial's Conclusion, the chancellor issued a partial ruling, citing Jerry for contempt for having violated the no-contact order again on January 3, 1997 *fn1 and sentenced him to serve ten days in jail. The chancellor took under advisement the remaining issues. After the parties submitted proposed findings of fact and Conclusions of law, the chancellor issued a decree of divorce for Tori for habitual cruel and inhuman treatment on July 14, 1997. Tori was awarded custody of the two minor children, with permanent visitation rights afforded to Jerry. In addition, Tori was awarded $900 per month in child support, and Jerry was ordered to provide the children with medical insurance. Tori and Jerry were ordered to equally bear the costs of any uninsured medical expenses of the children. Jerry was ordered to maintain a life insurance policy in the amount of $300,000 with the children as beneficiaries. Further, Jerry requested that the children attend private school and was ordered to pay tuition for the children in this regard above the amounts paid for child support. Tori was awarded $450 per month in alimony.

¶6. The chancellor also divided equitably the marital property. Jerry was awarded the marital home in Lambert, Mississippi, and Tori was awarded her retirement account with the State of Mississippi. Jerry and Tori were awarded their own vehicles, and each were charged with the indebtedness remaining on their respective automobiles. Each party was awarded their own clothing and other personal effects then in their possession, with the balance of the personal property being equally divided.

ΒΆ7. Lastly, Tori was awarded attorney's fees in the amount of $6,500, $3,500 for fees relating to three previous contempt hearings, and $3,000 for the fees regarding the divorce. ...


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