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Price v. Snowden

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

June 30, 2015

DONNA (HARTSOE) PRICE APPELLANT
v.
TIMOTHY MICHAEL SNOWDEN APPELLEE

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/12/2014

DESOTO COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. PERCY L. LYNCHARD JR. JUDGE.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: BENJAMIN LOUIS TAYLOR, SHELLEE DAWN WATSON

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JAMES W. AMOS

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ROBERTS AND FAIR, JJ.

GRIFFIS, P.J.

¶1. Donna Hartsoe Price appeals the DeSoto County Chancery Court's judgment denying her claim that Timothy Michael Snowden was in contempt for his failure to pay child support. The contempt allegation primarily deals with the calculation of Snowden's child-support obligation based on his annual income that was agreed to in the chancellor's prior order. Finding error, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

FACTS

¶2. Donna and Tim are the parents of Landen Hartsoe. Landen was born on July 19, 1994. Donna and Tim were never married. At the time of the hearing in this matter, Landen was nineteen years old.

¶3. On January 20, 2004, Chancellor Melvin McClure Jr. entered an "Agreed Order on Paternity, Child Custody, Child Support and Visitation." In the order, Tim acknowledged that he was Landen's father. The order awarded Donna sole physical custody of Landen, gave Tim visitation rights, and required Tim and Donna to share joint legal custody on a limited basis.[1] The order also contained two provisions that required Tim to pay child support and college-education expenses:

[Tim] will pay [Donna] child support based upon [f]ourteen [p]er[c]ent (14%) of his adjusted gross income pursuant to statutory guidelines. Said child support amount shall be adjusted appropriately on March 1st of each year beginning 3/1/04 based upon the income of [Tim] as documented for the preceding year. [Tim] will provide necessary documentation on or before February 15th of each year consecutively beginning 2/15/04. Child support to be paid by [Tim] to [Donna] shall continue at $620.00 per month until March 1, 2004[, ] and, thereafter, until appropriately adjusted as per the terms of this agreement.

. . . .

Parties agree to equally share tuition costs and book expenses for college for said minor child based upon those expenses charged at the University of Mississippi at the time that said minor child begins college. Said minor child may attend any college of his choice subject to this financial parameter. Child must be a full-time student and maintain a "C" average. All expenses to be documented to each party and each of them shall pay their equal share within [fourteen] days of notification. Child support shall be paid until the said minor child reaches the age of [twenty-one] years; thereafter, assuming that said child is a full-time student, parties shall equally share all college expenses for tuition, books, room [and] board[, ] and other reasonable and necessary expenses up until the child reaches the age of [t]wenty-three . . . years.

¶4. In 2009, the chancellor granted a modification to visitation to allow for a more conducive schedule for Landen to play football. The order incorporated the provisions of the 2004 order verbatim regarding the calculation and length of child support.

¶5. On March 25, 2013, Tim filed a petition to modify child support. Tim alleged that Landen was eighteen years old and would soon be emancipated. On May 1, 2013, Tim stopped paying child support. Tim also refused to pay one-half of Landen's spring college tuition because Landen was not a full-time student. Donna responded with a petition for contempt regarding the unpaid child support and college expenses.

ΒΆ6. In discovery, Donna learned that Tim had been calculating his child-support obligation by his taxable income since 2004 and not "pursuant to statutory guidelines." Donna learned that Tim received a housing allowance and "sea pay" from his employer, the United States Navy. Neither his housing allowance nor his "sea pay" was taxable to Tim; thus, these amounts were not reported on his federal-income-tax form. Tim acknowledged that his "sea pay" should have been included in his child-support calculation, and he agreed to pay Donna fourteen ...


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