Before Bridges, C.j., Payne, And Southwick, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Payne, J.
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/16/1997
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: DIVORCE GRANTED ON GROUND OF IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES; NO MARITAL ASSETS DIVIDED; APPELLANT AWARDED $18,000 LUMP SUM ALIMONY AND $750 PER MONTH PERIODIC ALIMONY FOR ONE YEAR
DISPOSITION: REVERSED AND REMANDED - 12/18/1998
PROCEDURAL POSTURE AND ISSUES PRESENTED
¶1. This appeal is before the Court challenging the judgment of the Chancery Court of Jackson County, the Honorable Pat H. Watts, Jr., presiding. The appellant, Eunice Flechas, raises three issues for our review: whether the trial court erred when it adjudicated that there were no assets acquired by either party during the marriage and there was therefore no marital property to divide, whether the trial court erred by awarding Eunice only $18,000 lump sum alimony, and whether the trial court erred in awarding Eunice rehabilitative alimony of $750 for only one year. Based upon our review of the record and the briefs submitted by both parties and the failure of the chancellor to provide adequate findings of fact and Conclusions of law supporting his decision, we reverse and remand as to all issues as set forth below.
¶2. Eunice, a teacher in the Georgia public school system who abandoned her job and sold her home to move to Mississippi, and Miguel, a Mississippi businessman, were married on June 15, 1991 and separated on September 15, 1996. The union produced no children. Eunice lived in Georgia and sold her home to move to Mississippi to marry Miguel. On November 6, 1996, Eunice filed her complaint for divorce on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, or alternatively, because of irreconcilable differences. In her complaint, Eunice moved for an equitable division of marital assets, for lump sum and permanent periodic alimony, for Miguel to maintain a life insurance policy on his life with Eunice as the irrevocable beneficiary, for Miguel to maintain health and hospitalization insurance on Eunice, and for reasonable attorney's fees.
¶3. Miguel filed his answer and counterclaim on November 26, 1996, denying Eunice's claims of entitled relief but seeking a dissolution of the marital bonds on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. In addition, Miguel moved for attorney's fees from Eunice. Eunice answered Miguel's counterclaim on December 4, 1996, agreeing to the grant of the divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences conditioned on the parties agreeing to the terms of a property settlement or a consent of divorce.
¶4. On January 14, 1997, the chancellor entered a temporary order giving Miguel control of the marital home, ordering Miguel to pay Eunice $1500 per month, and requiring Miguel to maintain health and automobile insurance on Eunice. On October 10, 1997, the parties filed with the trial court a joint consent to be divorced on the ground of irreconcilable differences and to allow the chancellor to decide all issues in dispute between them, and on the same day a trial was conducted to resolve these issues. On October 16, 1997, the chancellor issued his order awarding Eunice $750 periodic rehabilitative alimony for 1 year, lump sum alimony of $18,000 divided into twelve monthly payments of $1500 each, and Miguel was ordered to maintain health insurance on Eunice until such time as she acquired the same through her employment or for one year, whichever occurred first. The chancellor found that there was no property accumulated during the marriage; thus, there was no equitable distribution of marital assets ordered. In addition, the chancellor taxed equally court costs and found that Eunice and Miguel were responsible for their own attorney's fees.
¶5. From the chancellor's order flowed ...