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Ford v. Mississippi Dep't of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 10, 2015

MARTY C. FORD, APPELLANT
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: CHICKASAW COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/27/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. KENNETH M. BURNS. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CHILD SUPPORT MODIFIED.

MARTY C. FORD, APPELLANT, Pro se.

FOR APPELLEE: LINDSEY DAWN ETHERIDGE.

BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES, ISHEE AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ., CONCUR. JAMES, J., CONCURS IN PART WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

Page 1242

BARNES, J.

¶1. On June 24, 2011, Amy Crawford signed an affidavit and affirmation of paternity naming Marty C. Ford as the natural father of her eight-year-old son. Although Ford denied paternity, he agreed to genetic testing and signed a joint petition to determine paternity with the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). When the results revealed that Ford was indeed the natural father of the child, the MDHS filed the joint petition with the Chickasaw County Chancery Court on December 21, 2011.

¶2. A hearing was set for April 2, 2013; however, although Ford was personally served with a summons, he did not appear at the hearing. The chancery court entered

Page 1243

its judgment on April 2, 2013, ordering Ford to pay $400 in monthly child support based on an adjusted gross monthly income of $2,900.[1] Twenty-nine months of retroactive child support (from January 1, 2011) was also ordered in the amount of $11,600, for which Ford was to pay $80 per month until paid in full.

¶3. On May 30, 2013, Ford filed a petition to modify the final judgment, claiming that his income had " suffered an involuntary reduction" and, thus, had impaired his ability to make the required payments. Ford requested that the monthly child support be decreased " commensurate with [his] changed financial status and the Child Support Guidelines," and the retroactive support be deleted or, in the alternative, decreased and credited with voluntary payments he made to Crawford.

¶4. A hearing on the petition was held on August 13, 2013. Ford testified he was currently self-employed doing automobile body work, and his income varied between $0 and $2,100 per month. He also said that at the time of the April 2, 2013 hearing, he was employed as a commercial truck driver, but had very little positive income, due to his other child-support obligations. He admitted that prior to that, he had been employed with the Tupelo Public School District, where he earned approximately $2,900 per month. However, he left that job in July 2012, claiming it caused him to suffer stress-related high blood pressure, but he confessed his physician did not say his blood pressure was " an unhealthy amount." He also acknowledged to the court that he had not paid any of the ordered monthly child support since the April 2, 2013 judgment.

¶5. Also testifying, Crawford agreed to a decrease in the monthly child support, but she requested $288 per month, stating that Ford's suggested $150 per month was " just not right." She also requested that the retroactive support remain in place, and confirmed that Ford had paid her $1,400. At the conclusion of the hearing, the chancellor modified the judgment, reducing the monthly child-support award to $288, and providing Ford with a credit of $1,400 for voluntary payments he had made to Crawford to be applied against the retroactive child-support award of $11,600. The order modifying the judgment was entered on August 28, 2013.

¶6. In the meantime, Ford filed a motion to set aside the judgment on August 22, 2013. Ford subsequently filed an amended motion to set aside the judgment on September 5, 2013, and a hearing was held September 25, 2013. At that hearing, Ford, representing himself pro se, again argued that the ordered child support, both monthly and retroactive, was based on incorrect income amounts. Ford contended that the adjusted monthly gross income of $2,900 from when he was employed with the school district should not have been used to calculate the child support. He also argued that January 2011 to April 2013 was only twenty-eight months; thus, the chancery court's order of twenty-nine months of retroactive child support was erroneous. The ...


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