OF JUDGMENT: 02/27/2015
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. PERCY L. LYNCHARD JR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: LUTHER PUTNAM CRULL JR.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: A.E. (RUSTY) HARLOW JR. KATHI
CRESTMAN WILSON SABRINA D. HOWELL
GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.
In April 2012, the Grenada County Chancery Court awarded
Claudia Renfro a divorce from her husband, John Renfro, on
the ground of adultery. The chancery court divided the
marital estate equally. In Renfro v. Renfro, 125
So.3d 92 (Miss. Ct. App. 2013), this Court found that the
chancery court erroneously classified as marital property
land Claudia had inherited about three years prior to the
separation. On remand, the chancery court awarded John
a larger share of the marital estate, equal to approximately
half the value of Claudia's land, as lump sum alimony and
in the form of Claudia's half interest in the marital
home. Claudia has again appealed, and she contends that the
award was erroneous because it appears calculated to reach
the same ultimate result as the original property division.
We conclude that, while the decision on remand does reach the
same result, it is supported by substantial evidence and the
correct legal standards were applied. Our standard of review
precludes interference with the judgment, and so we affirm.
"When [an appellate court] reviews a chancellor's
decision in a case involving divorce and all related issues,
[the court's] scope of review is limited by the
substantial evidence/manifest error rule." Yelverton
v. Yelverton, 961 So.2d 19, 24 (¶6) (Miss. 2007). A
chancellor's factual findings will not be disturbed
unless manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous, or an erroneous
legal standard was applied. Carambat v. Carambat, 72
So.3d 505, 510-11 (¶24) (Miss. 2011). As long as
substantial evidence supports the chancellor's findings,
an appellate court is without authority to disturb them, even
if it would have found otherwise as an original matter.
Joel v. Joel, 43 So.3d 424, 429 (¶14) (Miss.
2010). Additionally, if the chancellor has made no specific
findings, we generally proceed on the assumption that he
resolved all such fact issues in favor of the appellee.
Ferrara v. Walters, 919 So.2d 876, 881 (¶8)
(Miss. 2005) (citing Newsom v. Newsom, 557 So.2d
511, 514 (Miss. 1990)). Questions of law, on the other hand,
are reviewed de novo. Irving v. Irving, 67 So.3d
776, 778 (¶11) (Miss. 2011).
At issue in Renfro I was 140 acres of land inherited
by Claudia approximately three years before the separation.
The Renfros had expended significant marital funds and
energies planting and managing the land as an investment,
which led the chancellor to conclude it had become marital
property. We reversed, finding that the land had not been
commingled to the extent that it lost its character as
separate property. Renfro I, 125 So.3d at 97-98
On remand, the chancellor accepted Claudia's land as her
separate property, but he found that her large separate
estate, coupled with the smaller marital pot, had changed the
calculus. Although the chancellor nominally divided the
remaining marital property equally, after reviewing the
Ferguson and Armstrong factors,
then awarded Claudia's half of the marital home to John
as lump sum alimony.
Claudia presents numerous challenges to this award. She
points out on appeal that the home was approximately equal in
value to her 140 acres, and that the result of the
chancellor's decision on remand is essentially to
recreate the original property division, which was reversed
on appeal. But there is nothing inherently suspicious about
the chancery court reaching a similar result on remand.
See, e.g., Powell v. Evans, 113 So.3d 1270, 1275
(¶23) (Miss. Ct. App. 2013). Our reason for reversing
the original property division was the erroneous
classification of Claudia's 140 acres, and the chancellor
classified the property as separate on remand. Renfro
I, 125 So.3d at 97-98 ...