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Turnley v. Turnely

December 30, 1998

MICHAEL TURNLEY APPELLANT
v.
MELODY KAY RYAN TURNLEY APPELLEE



Before Thomas, P.j., Coleman, And Hinkebein, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coleman, J., For The Court:

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/07/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. GLENN BARLOW

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - DOMESTIC RELATIONS

TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DIVORCE GRANTED TO HUSBAND ON GROUND OF ADULTERY.

¶1. Michael Turnley (Mr. Turnley) appeals from the judgment of divorce rendered by the Jackson County Chancery Court in which that court granted him a divorce from Melody Kay Ryan Turnley (Ms. Turnley) on the ground of adultery. In its judgment of divorce, the chancery court denied Mr. Turnley's claim for reimbursement of disability benefits totaling $18,900 which Ms. Turnley received pursuant to her husband's power of attorney after Mr. Turnley's conservator had revoked it. The court ordered Mr. Turnley to pay his wife rehabilitative alimony at the rate of $150 per month until August 7, 1999, the date that Mr. Turnley's disability benefits terminated under his insurance policy, or until Ms. Turnley remarried, whichever event first occurred. We quote verbatim from Mr. Turnley's brief the following two issues which he presents for our analysis and resolution:

1. "The court erred in not ordering the Appellee to reimburse the Appellant for certain funds she misappropriated.

2. The court erred in granting the Appellee alimony."

We affirm.

I. FACTS

¶2. Michael and Melody Turnley married on August 25, 1977, in Memphis, Tennessee. Two children, Jena Marie, a daughter born July 20, 1978, and Micah, a son born October 2, 1980, were born to the Turnleys' marriage. During their marriage, Melody did not work outside the home. Around December 24, 1988, Mr. Turnley sustained severe and permanently disabling brain damage in a motorcycle accident. Because the motorcycle accident left Mr. Turnley permanently disabled, he received disability benefits paid by the Social Security Administration at the rate of $941 per month and by the INA Insurance Company (INA) at the rate of $300 per week, or $1,295.38 per month. These benefits were scheduled to terminate on August 7, 1999, even if Mr. Turnley remained disabled after that date. On February 7, 1990, Mr. Turnley executed and delivered to Ms. Turnley a general power of attorney which empowered her to manage his affairs, including her negotiating INA's check to pay Mr. Turnley's weekly disability benefit in the amount of $300.

¶3. On October 31, 1990, Ms. Turnley called Mr. Turnley's mother, Mary Turnley, who lived in Jackson, to tell Mary Turnley that because she could no longer care for Michael Turnley, she, Melody Turnley, intended to place him in a nursing home. Melody Turnley testified that she inquired if Michael Turnley's mother would take her son into her home to care for him. Mary Turnley's version of her daughter-in-law's telephone conversation was that Melody Turnley told her that she "was through with" Michael and would put him into a nursing home unless Mary Turnley and her husband wanted to take him to their home in Jackson. Regardless of the exact nature of the conversation between Melody and Mary Turnley, Mary Turnley and her husband left Jackson the same day, October 31, and drove to their son's home in Jackson County. The next day, November 1, 1990, Michael Turnley's parents returned with their son Michael to their home in Jackson, where Michael Turnley remained through September 26, 1996, the date that the trial of this case began.

¶4. On November 21, 1991, slightly more than one year after Mary Turnley and her husband returned to their home in Jackson with their son, Michael Turnley executed a revocation of the power of attorney delivered to his wife, Melody K. Turnley, on February 7, 1990. On December 7, 1993, the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County appointed Mary Turnley the conservator of Michael Turnley's estate. About the time that she was appointed her son's conservator, Mary Turnley notified INA that her son had revoked the power of attorney which he had delivered to his wife and that she, Mary Turnley, was now the conservator of her son's estate. With this notification, INA stopped sending Michael Turnley's weekly disability checks in the amount of $300 to Melody Turnley, Michael's wife, and began to send the checks to Michael's mother, Mary Turnley. The total amount of the INA disability benefit checks which Melody Turnley received between the time her husband terminated her power of attorney and INA began to send the checks to Michael's conservator, Mary Turnley, was $18,900.

¶5. During the summer of 1991, after Michael Turnley's parents had taken him back to Jackson to live with them, Melody engaged in an adulterous relationship with a married man whom she had engaged to repair the porch to the Turnleys' home in Jackson County.

II. LITIGATION

A. Pleadings and Pre-trial procedure

¶6. As Michael Turnley's conservator, Mary Turnley filed a complaint for divorce on behalf of her son on March 21, 1994, "on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, desertion, or, in the alternative, irreconcilable differences." In this complaint for divorce, the conservator also sought reimbursement of her ward, Michael Turnley, by Ms. Turnley for the disability checks which she received and cashed from October 31, 1991, through January 29, 1993, in the amount of fifty thousand dollars. Ms. Turnley filed her answer in which she denied that she owed her husband $50,000, and she filed a counterclaim for divorce against Mr. Turnley in which she sought a divorce from her husband on the grounds of "habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, or adultery, or in the alternative, irreconcilable differences."

B. Judgment of Divorce

¶7. We reserve recitation of the testimony and evidence which the Turnleys adduced during the trial in this case for our review and resolution of the issues which Mr. Turnley presents in his appeal. The chancellor declined to render an opinion from the bench at the Conclusion of the trial but, instead, took the case under advisement. On January 7, the chancery court rendered its judgment of divorce by which it granted to Mr. Turnley a divorce from Ms. Turnley on the ground of adultery. The chancellor awarded Ms. Turnley "paramount custody of the minor children," Jena, age eighteen, and Micah, age fifteen. The chancery court ordered Mr. Turnley to pay Ms. Turnley child support in the amount of $500 per month, against which monthly amount Mr. Turnley was to be credited with any Social Security benefits which either child received because of Mr. Turnley's disability. *fn1 Further, Mr. Turnley was ordered to pay Ms. Turnley periodic rehabilitative alimony at the rate of $150 per month until either the date of Ms. Turnley's remarriage or August 7, 1999, ...


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