COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/16/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. D. NEIL HARRIS SR. TRIAL COURT DENIED EX-HUSBAND'S PETITIONS FOR MODIFICATION OF CUSTODY AND CITATION FOR CONTEMPT.
FOR APPELLANT: MARK V. KNIGHTEN.
FOR APPELLEE: MICHAEL L. FONDREN.
BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., GRIFFIS, P.J., ISHEE, ROBERTS, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. IRVING, P.J., AND BARNES, J., CONCUR IN PART AND IN THE RESULT. CARLTON, J., CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - CUSTODY
¶1. A parent seeking modification of a previous child-custody order bears the initial burden of proving (1) a material change in circumstances adversely affecting his children's welfare and (2) that a change of custody is in the child's best interest. In this case, the chancellor determined a father petitioning for modification had not met this burden.
¶2. Though the maternal grandmother had falsely accused the father of sexually abusing his two sons, which led to criminal charges that were later dropped, the chancellor found that this circumstance, while adversely affecting the father, did not adversely affect the children. So the chancellor concluded changing custody was not in the children's best interest. Because we find no abuse of discretion in the chancellor's decision, we affirm the denial of the father's petition to modify custody.
¶3. We also affirm the denial of his petition to hold the mother in contempt. While the chancellor did not expressly address each specific request for contempt and injunctive relief the father had made, we are instructed to assume he resolved these additional issues in favor of the mother, as appellee. And we likewise find no abuse of discretion in this decision.
¶4. When Kyle James and Jennifer James  divorced in December 2008, they agreed Jennifer would have primary physical custody of their two sons, then ages eight and three, and that Kyle would have visitation on alternating weekends. But in May 2010, Kyle petitioned the Jackson County Chancery Court to find Jennifer in contempt and to modify the boys' custody so that he shared custody " 50/50." In his petition, Kyle alleged Jennifer had interfered with his scheduled visitation and efforts to be involved in the boys' schoolwork. He also alleged Jennifer had allowed the boys to engaged in " dangerous" activities. Jennifer filed a counterclaim, asking that Kyle's visitation be supervised. She asserted Kyle had been too rough physically when disciplining their sons.
¶5. While their requests were pending, Jennifer's mother contacted the Department of Human Services (DHS) and reported Kyle had sexually abused his younger son--allegations later proven to be false. In response, Kyle filed a motion to enjoin Jennifer's mother from contacting the boys. He also requested the court ...