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Short v. Short

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

February 6, 2014

William Andrew SHORT
v.
Kathryn Taylor SHORT.

Page 1150

Jenessa Carter Hicks, Southaven, David Earl Rozier, Jr., Jackson, attorneys for appellant.

Derek L. Hall, Jackson, attorney for appellee.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

PIERCE, Justice.

¶ 1. William Andrew Short (Andy) and Kathryn Taylor Short were divorced in 2007. As part of the divorce judgment, the parties entered into a property, child-

Page 1151

support, and child-custody agreement stipulating that Andy would pay child support in the amount of $50,000 per year until the child began kindergarten; thereafter, he would pay fifteen percent of his adjusted gross income (AGI), never to fall below $36,000 per year.

¶ 2. In 2011, Kathryn filed a complaint for contempt, alleging that Andy had failed to make child-support payments. Andy filed a counter-complaint for custody and to modify child support. Andy alleged a material change in circumstances because of a significant reduction in his adjusted gross income, requiring a new child-support calculation. The chancellor found that no material change in circumstances had occurred and ordered Andy to continue paying the minimum requirement of $36,000 per year in child support, pursuant to the original child-support agreement.

¶ 3. Andy appealed, arguing that the chancellor had disregarded statutory child-support guidelines, that the child-support provision in the parties' agreement violates Mississippi law, and that the chancellor had erred in calculating Andy's adjusted gross income. The Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that the chancellor had considered all of the appropriate factors for modification and had supported his conclusions with findings of fact from the record. Short v. Short, 131 So.3d 1200, 1202 (Miss.Ct.App.2013).

¶ 4. Andy filed a petition for writ of certiorari, stating that the Court of Appeals had failed to address his argument that the automatic child-support-calculation clause violates Mississippi law. Andy also claimed that the Court of Appeals failed to consider that the chancellor had wholly disregarded the statutory child-support guidelines, had erred by affirming the chancellor's finding that no material change in circumstances had occurred, and had overlooked the substantive error in the chancellor's calculation of Andy's adjusted gross income. We granted certiorari.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 5. Factual findings made by the chancery court will not be disturbed if they are " supported by substantial evidence unless [we] can say with reasonable certainty that the chancellor abused his discretion, was manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous or applied an erroneous legal standard." Biglane v. Under the Hill Corp., 949 So.2d 9, 14 (Miss.2007) (quoting Cummings v. Benderman, 681 So.2d 97, 100 (Miss.1996)).

¶ 6. Additionally, support agreements pursuant to an irreconcilable-differences divorce cannot be modified without a finding of a material change in circumstances, which was not foreseeable prior to the time of the judgment of divorce. Tingle v. Tingle, 573 So.2d 1389, 1391 (Miss.1990).

ANALYSIS

I. Whether the child-support obligation is modifiable.

¶ 7. Andy argues that the trial court found that the child-support obligation was not modifiable and states that he is forever bound to pay at least $3,000 per month in child support without regard for his or global circumstances. It is clear from the record that, during the chancellor's ruling on whether a material change in circumstances had occurred, he conducted a full analysis under the factors set forth in Pipkin v. Dolan, 788 So.2d 834 (Miss.Ct.App.2001). However, the chancellor later focused on the mandatory language in the parties' ...


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