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Keyes v. Keyes

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 11, 2014

MELANIE DIANE KEYES, APPELLANT
v.
DUSTIN KEYES, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WARREN COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/19/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. VICKI R. BARNES. TRIAL COURT GRANTED PARTIES JOINT LEGAL AND PHYSICAL CUSTODY OF MINOR CHILDREN.

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED.

FOR APPELLANT: MARK W. PREWITT.

FOR APPELLEE: MICHAEL R. BONNER.

BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ., CONCUR. JAMES, J., NOT PARTICIPATING.

OPINION

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - CUSTODY

CARLTON, J.

¶1. The Warren County Chancery Court granted Dustin and Melanie Keyes an irreconcilable-differences divorce. Melanie

Page 389

appeals the chancellor's decision to award the parties joint legal and physical custody of their two minor children. She argues that the chancellor erred by awarding joint custody because: (1) the chancellor failed to determine whether the parties could cooperate in sharing joint custody; and (2) the chancellor violated the chancery court maxim that " [e]quity delights to do complete justice and not by halves." [1] Finding no error, we affirm.

FACTS

¶2. Dustin and Melanie were married on December 9, 2006. The couple had two minor children during the marriage: a daughter, Piper, and a son, Wade. At the time of the trial in 2012, Piper was three years old, and Wade was eleven months old. The parties separated in March 2012, and on April 18, 2012, they filed a joint bill for divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences. The parties had not yet entered into a property-settlement agreement but stated that they would attempt to enter into one. On June 11, 2012, the parties filed a consent for the chancellor to grant an irreconcilable-differences divorce and to allow the chancellor to decide the following issues upon which the parties could not agree: (1) alimony; (2) physical and legal custody of the parties' children, visitation rights, and the amount of child support; (3) the award of the dependency exemption; (4) the division of any marital property; and (5) any other matters requiring equitable relief that might arise. Melanie requested that the chancellor grant her primary physical custody of the children, and Dustin requested joint custody.

¶3. The chancellor held three hearings on the parties' joint bill for divorce. On December 19, 2012, the chancellor entered a memorandum opinion and final judgment granting the parties an irreconcilable-differences divorce. After considering the testimony and applicable law, the chancellor entered her findings of fact and conclusions of law. The chancellor conducted a thorough analysis of the factors set forth in Albright v. Albright, 437 So.2d 1003, 1005 (Miss. 1983). After weighing the Albright factors, the chancellor awarded the parties joint legal and physical custody because the factors supported both parents equally. The following analysis reflects the chancellor's determination that the award of joint legal and physical custody was in the best interest of the children.

¶4. Although the parties' children were under the age of four at the time of the trial, the chancellor noted that the presumption related to the tender-years doctrine had weakened in recent years.[2] The chancellor stated that the " tender[-]years doctrine is weakened further [in the present case] by testimony regarding how Wade is bottle-fed both formula and milk." Finding that the testimony showed that both parents possessed the capacity to ...


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