COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MONTGOMERY COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/20/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PERCY L. LYNCHARD JR. TRIAL COURT ON REMAND, ORDERED FORMER HUSBAND TO PAY ALIMONY AND TO KEEP FORMER WIFE AS CO-BENEFICIARY TO LIFE-INSURANCE POLICY.
FOR APPELLANT: RICHARD SHANE MCLAUGHLIN, D. KIRK THARP.
FOR APPELLEE: PATRICIA ABRAHAM RODGERS, KATHERINE TACKETT MILLS.
BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND MAXWELL, JJ. LEE, C.J., GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. IRVING, P.J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - DOMESTIC RELATIONS
¶1. This is our second opportunity to review the chancellor's award to Alicia Alvarado
Coggins of (1) periodic alimony and (2) the designation of beneficiary to her ex-husband's life-insurance policy. When these two awards were first before this court in 2012, we reversed and remanded these issues back to the chancery court. The chancellor followed our mandate. He determined alimony was necessary, even when Alicia's estate was properly valued, and he explained his reason for requiring Alicia's ex-husband, Bill Coggins, to maintain life insurance for Alicia's benefit.
¶2. Bill has once again appealed. This time we affirm the portion of the judgment awarding periodic alimony. Satisfied that the chancellor's determination that Alicia's separate estate left her in a deficit was not based on a miscalculation, we find no abuse of discretion in his ordering Bill pay Alicia $504 per month in alimony. But we must reverse the portion of the judgment requiring that Bill designate Alicia as beneficiary to one-half of his $350,000 life-insurance policy. Because the purpose of this award is to protect Alicia from Bill falling behind on alimony payments and then dying before catching up, we find requiring Bill to maintain insurance in the amount of almost thirty years worth of alimony payments is excessive. We remand the life-insurance issue back the chancery court for the chancellor to determine an amount commensurate to the interest the policy was designed to protect.
¶3. Bill and Alicia separated in 2008. They had been married since 1999 and had one child together, Izabella, who was born in 2003. In 2009, they filed for an irreconcilable-differences divorce, agreeing to divorce and submitting disputed issues to the chancellor. Following the chancellor's 2010 final judgment of divorce, Bill appealed three issues: (1) the award of periodic alimony to Alicia; (2) the requirement that Bill maintain his $350,000 life-insurance policy and designate Izabella as beneficiary to $175,000 and Alicia as beneficiary to the other $175,000; and (3) the award of child support to Alicia. While this court affirmed the child-support award, we reversed and remanded the other two issues. Coggins v. Coggins (Coggins I), 81 So.3d 285 (Miss. Ct. App. 2012).
¶4. After our mandate in Coggins I issued, the chancellor held a hearing on the remanded issues. At this hearing, the chancellor took judicial notice of the fact Izabella had been diagnosed with mild autism and required personalized care from Alicia--as this issue had been thoroughly presented at the 2010 divorce hearing. The chancellor also heard more testimony from Alicia about how Izabella's special needs prevented Alicia, a licensed practical nurse, from working full-time. Because this court's basis for reversal and remand of the alimony award centered on the chancellor's failure to consider a $25,000 payment Bill was to make to Alicia as part of their property-settlement agreement, Alicia also offered testimony about the purpose of the $25,000 payment.
¶5. Bill's evidentiary presentation followed two themes. The first was his assertion that Alicia was cohabiting with her boyfriend. And the second centered on his belief that Alicia did not have to be so available to Izabella, whose condition was, in his view, not as severe as Alicia claimed. According to Bill, Izabella could be kept by a number of people, including Alicia's unemployed brother, so Alicia had no excuse not to work full-time.
¶6. At the end of the hearing, the chancellor concluded the purpose of the $25,000 cash payment as part of the property settlement was to equalize Bill's and Alicia's separate estates. But even at this higher amount, Alicia's estate was deficient. The chancellor conducted another Armstrong analysis. Armstrong v. Armstrong,
618 So.2d 1278, 1280 (Miss. 1993). Based primarily on the " great disparity" between Bill's and Alicia's respective incomes, exacerbated by Alicia's forgoing income to take care of their special-needs child, the chancellor ordered Bill pay Alicia $504 per month in periodic alimony. He also ordered Bill maintain Izabella's status as the designated beneficiary to one-half of his $350,000 life-insurance policy and Alicia's status as beneficiary to the other half.
¶7. Bill once again appealed. And once more we review the chancellor's award of periodic alimony and requirement that Bill designate Alicia as beneficiary to one-half of his life-insurance policy.
¶8. " Our scope of review of an alimony award is familiar and well settled. Alimony awards are within the discretion of the chancellor, and his discretion will not be reversed on appeal unless the chancellor was manifestly in error in his finding of fact and abused his ...