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Rosser v. Morris

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 8, 2014

LAURA K. STRICKLAND ROSSER, APPELLANT
v.
ABRAHAM J. MORRIS, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WARREN COUNTY COUNTY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/12/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN S. PRICE JR. TRIAL COURT CHILD CUSTODY AWARDED TO FATHER, WITH REASONABLE VISITATION GRANTED TO MOTHER.

FOR APPELLANT: DAVID M. SESSUMS, PENNY B. LAWSON.

FOR APPELLEE: MARC DARREN AMOS.

BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND ISHEE, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., ISHEE, ROBERTS, MAXWELL, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. CARLTON, J., CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY.

OPINION

Page 946

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - CUSTODY

BARNES, J.

¶1. The County Court of Warren County awarded permanent custody of Kathryn Morris, a minor child, to her natural

Page 947

father, Abraham Morris (Abe). The trial court granted the child's mother, Laura Strickland Rosser, visitation and ordered her to pay child support. Laura appeals the trial court's order, and finding no error, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. Laura and Abe are the natural parents of Kathryn, who was born out of wedlock on March 3, 2007. The couple ended their relationship a few months after Kathryn's birth, and on December 5, 2007, Laura filed a complaint for paternity and other relief against Abe in the County Court of Warren County.[1] Laura asserted that Abe was Kathryn's biological father and requested child support. Abe did not contest paternity and filed a counter-petition for custody and support.

¶3. On February 14, 2008, the county court adjudicated Abe as Kathryn's natural father and awarded Laura " permanent care, custody and control" of the minor child and child support of $600 per month. The court withheld ruling on visitation, however, due to several issues concerning Laura's and Abe's ability and willingness to care for the child. The couple held extreme animosity toward one another, as did the minor child's grandmothers. Therefore, a guardian ad litem was appointed, and the parties eventually agreed on visitation on April 17, 2008. The county court also reserved the right to enter additional orders or modify the current order.

¶4. On April 2, 2009, the county court held a hearing regarding multiple motions for contempt that had been filed. Still concerned about Laura's and Abe's ability to take care of the child, due to Laura's alcohol abuse and Abe's issues with anger, the trial judge issued a temporary order, requiring psychological evaluations of Abe and Laura, and awarding temporary joint custody to Kathryn's maternal and paternal grandmothers. The order stated that Kathryn was to spend alternating two-week periods at each grandmother's home. Abe's parents lived in Columbus, Mississippi; Laura's parents lived in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The court's order further dictated that neither Abe nor Laura be left alone with the child.[2] As a result of the court's order, Laura entered rehabilitative treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, and Abe began psychological treatment for his issues with anger and anxiety.

¶5. Shortly following the entry of the court's temporary order, Abe moved into his parents' home in Columbus and helped take care of Kathryn during her two-week visits. Abe has worked since that time as a salesman at various car dealerships in Columbus. He has also been receiving regular psychological treatment for his anger issues.

¶6. Seeking employment opportunities, Laura moved to Dallas, Texas, in December 2009. She initially lived with her aunt, but she moved into an apartment in March 2010. She subsequently met Brad Rosser through her church and married him. Since her move to Dallas, Laura has been employed full-time as a outside sales representative for a radio station.

¶7. A hearing on permanent custody was held on June 6-7, 2011. The trial court entered a memorandum opinion on October 25, 2011, awarding permanent custody to Abe based on its analysis of the

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factors set forth by Albright v. Albright, 437 So.2d 1003 (Miss. 1983).[3] The opinion stated the parties had thirty days to reach an agreement on visitation, child support, health insurance, and " any other matters that need to be addressed." Laura filed a motion for reconsideration on January 4, 2012; Abe filed a reply on January 13, 2012.[4] On March 12, 2012, the trial court denied both motions and entered an agreed order, granting " reasonable visitation" to Laura and ordering her to pay child support in the amount of fourteen percent of her adjusted gross income. Laura has filed a timely notice of appeal, challenging the trial court's findings regarding certain Albright factors and claiming that a material change in circumstances has occurred that warrants a change in custody. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

DISCUSSION

I. Whether the trial court's application of the Albright factors was in error.

¶8. In appeals concerning child custody, the " polestar consideration" is the best interest of the child. O'Briant v. O'Briant, 99 So.3d 802, 805 (¶ 12) (Miss. Ct. App. 2012) (citation omitted). " We may only reverse a child-custody determination if the [trial judge] is manifestly wrong, clearly erred, or applied an erroneous legal standard." Id. at (¶ 13). If the trial court " properly applies and considers the child-custody factors from Albright, ...


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