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Gateley v. Gateley

Supreme Court of Mississippi

February 12, 2015

LAUREN BYRD (PHILLIPS) GATELEY
v.
CLAYTON HARRELL GATELEY

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: DESOTO COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/08/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PERCY L. LYNCHARD, JR. TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: TRACY B. WALSH, ELIZABETH B. TREADWAY, DEBRA PACE BRANAN.

FOR APPELLANT: MARK A. CHINN, MATTHEW THOMPSON.

FOR APPELLEE: TRACY BUSTER WALSH.

BEFORE DICKINSON, P.J., LAMAR AND CHANDLER, JJ. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., KITCHENS, CHANDLER, PIERCE, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 297

LAMAR, JUSTICE.

¶1. After an irreconcilable-differences divorce, a chancellor awarded physical custody of two minor children to their father. The mother appeals, claiming the guardian ad litem's investigation was inadequate. Because we find the chancellor's decision was supported by substantial evidence, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. Clayton Harrell Gateley and Lauren Byrd Phillips Gateley were married on October 11, 2006, and, on November 13, 2012, the parties consented to divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences. At the time of the divorce, the Gateleys had two children: a six-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter. On January 14, 2013, the custody, property, and support issues were tried in DeSoto County Chancery Court.

¶3. At trial, each party was represented by counsel and each party testified. The parties also called witnesses on their behalf. Although there was some dispute over the parties' respective incomes and how the property should be divided, custody was the main focus of the proceeding. Lauren and her witnesses generally testified that she was the better parent and that the children were happy and well-cared-for when they were with her; Clayton and his witnesses generally testified that he was the better parent and that the children were happy and well-cared-for when they were with him.

¶4. Each party pointed to one main reason the other should not have custody. Clayton claimed Lauren should not have custody because she suffered from trichotillomania, a nervous disorder characterized by the irresistible impulse to pull one's own hair. The chancellor heard testimony that Lauren would spend several hours a day in the bathroom pulling her hair when she should have been watching the children, such as when they were bathing. One witness testified that he had visited the Gateleys' home on multiple occasions and had observed Lauren spending most of the evening in the bedroom while Clayton took care of the children.

¶5. Lauren admitted having trichotillomania but claimed it was under control and did not inhibit her ability to care for her children. Lauren had sought treatment for the condition nearly a decade

Page 298

before, and had been prescribed medication but had quit taking it. According to her, the disorder impacted only her physical appearance--due to hair ...


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