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Noone v. Noone

Supreme Court of Mississippi

December 12, 2013

Elise W. NOONE
v.
Frank R. NOONE.

Page 194

John H. Ott, McComb, attorney for appellant.

Amanda Jane Proctor, William R. Wright, Ridgeland, attorneys for appellee.

Before WALLER, C.J., KITCHENS and COLEMAN, JJ.

COLEMAN, Justice.

¶ 1. At issue in the instant case is the interpretation of Mississippi Code Section 11-21-1(2) (Rev.2004); particularly whether the statute, which limits partition of homestead property " exempted from execution" and owned by spouses to partition by agreement only, prohibits one spouse from obtaining a partition of jointly owned property by chancery decree against the other. As more fully detailed below, the issue is the meaning of the phrase " exempted from execution." The chancellor held that Section 11-21-1 wholly prohibits the partitioning of spousal property by chancery decree, even to the extent that the property has a value greater than the $75,000 protected from creditors. Finding no error, we affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

¶ 2. Elise and Frank Noone are married, and they jointly own approximately sixty-seven acres of land in Copiah County as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Frank and Elise claim their homestead exemption on said property. Elise filed for divorce on the ground of habitual cruelty and inhuman treatment, but the chancellor denied the divorce following a trial in February 2011.

¶ 3. Following the divorce action, Elise filed a complaint for declaratory judgment seeking a determination that the Chancery Court of Copiah County had the power to partition the Noones' property and asking the chancellor to partition the property. Elise then filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Mississippi Code Section 11-21-1(2) did not prevent the partition of the Noones' homestead property, at least to the extent that the value of the property exceeded $75,000 (the maximum amount of the homestead exemption). Frank responded that Section 11-21-1(2) barred partition of their homestead property by chancery decree. The chancellor denied Elise's motion for summary judgment and, finding it dispositive on the issue of requested partition of the property, he ordered that the property would not be partitioned. Elise timely filed the present appeal.

Page 195

Discussion

¶ 4. A chancery court's grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment is reviewed under a de novo standard. In re Guardianship of Duckett, 991 So.2d 1165, 1173 (¶ 15) (Miss.2008) (citing Anglado v. Leaf River Forest Prods., Inc. 716 So.2d 543, 547 (Miss.1998)). Additionally, statutory interpretation is a matter of law, which the Court reviews de novo. Franklin Collection Serv., Inc. v. Kyle, 955 So.2d 284, 287 (¶ 8) (Miss.2007) (citing Wallace v. Town of Raleigh, 815 So.2d 1203, 1206 (¶ 7) (Miss.2002)).

¶ 5. Elise asserts that the chancellor erred in denying her motion for summary judgment because he incorrectly interpreted Section 11-21-1. She also asserts that the statute is invalid and unenforceable because it is against the public policy favoring the alienability of land.

A. Whether the chancellor correctly interpreted Section 11-21-1.

¶ 6. Typically, when one co-owns property as a joint tenant, he or she has the right to partition property in one of two ways: (1) by chancery decree pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 11-21-3,[1] or (2) by written agreement of the owners pursuant to Section 11-21-1(1). Section 11-21-1(2) provides that homestead property co-owned by spouses can be partitioned only by written agreement of the parties and not by chancery ...


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