Arthur D. Carlisle, Ocean Springs, attorney for appellant.
Elliot G. Mestayer, Pascagoula, attorney for appellee.
Before GRIFFIS, P.J., ROBERTS and CARLTON, JJ.
¶ 1. Brenda and Brian Pelton agreed to a divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences. They submitted to the chancellor the issues of distribution of the marital home, debts, and personal property; child support; alimony; division of the business assets; contempt for failure to follow a temporary restraining order; and attorney's fees. Brenda now appeals the chancellor's awards. We find that the chancellor erred when he failed to apply the Ferguson and Armstrong factors in his division of the property and award of alimony. Therefore, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
¶ 2. Brenda and Brian were married on December 15, 1998. They had one daughter during the marriage. Brenda also had one son from a prior marriage. The parties separated on October 21, 2010, after almost twelve years of marriage.
¶ 3. Brenda works as a legal assistant. Her monthly income is approximately $2,248.37. Brian is the sole owner of Tree Toppers, a tree-cutting and trimming business Brian began during the marriage. Tree Toppers has many assets and liabilities. Brian's monthly income is difficult to ascertain because it fluctuates with the seasons and results from many cash transactions. Brian approximated his monthly income at $1,503.
¶ 4. During the marriage, they lived in a home purchased by Brian prior to their marriage.
¶ 5. Brenda filed for divorce on January 11, 2011, and Brian counterclaimed for divorce on May 9, 2011. On May 10, 2011, the parties agreed to a divorce based on irreconcilable differences.
¶ 6. The chancellor entered a final judgment after a hearing was conducted in response to Brenda's motion to reopen the case. The chancellor did not designate the properties in dispute as marital or nonmarital assets and did not value the home or Tree Toppers. The chancellor awarded the business to Brian, along with its liabilities, including the equity line of credit on the marital home because the proceeds were used for Tree Toppers. Brenda was awarded $150 a month in periodic alimony for seven years (totaling $12,600) and use of the marital home until the parties' daughter graduates from high school in five years. The marital home was ordered to be sold within a year of the child's graduation, with the proceeds to be equally split between the parties. Since Brenda had physical possession of the home, Brenda
was ordered to pay all insurance, maintenance, and taxes on the home, as well as the first mortgage.
¶ 7. Both parties filed motions to reconsider and motions for a new trial. On October 18, 2011, the chancellor conducted a consolidated hearing on all four motions. The chancellor granted in part and denied in part Brenda's motion to reconsider, which ...