IN THE MATTER OF C.T., A MINOR, JASON TAYLOR AND JESSICA TIMMONS:
JESSICA TIMMONS APPELLEE JASON K. TAYLOR APPELLANT
OF JUDGMENT: 10/07/2015
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. JOHN S. GRANT III TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: M. JUDITH BARNETT JEANINE M.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JESSICA TIMMONS (PRO SE)
LEE, C.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
Jason Taylor appeals the decision of the chancery court,
alleging that the chancellor erred when he (1) found that
Jessica Timmons was entitled to decide which school the child
would attend; (2) modified his child-support obligation; (3)
modified the visitation schedule; (4) found him in contempt
for failure to make timely child-support payments and failed
to find Timmons in contempt for failure to notify him of her
new address; and (5) assessed him with $2, 000 in
attorney's fees. Finding no error, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Taylor and Timmons had a child in 2011 but were never
married. In January 2013, Taylor and Timmons filed a joint
complaint for determination of paternity, child custody, and
other relief, and the Rankin County Chancery Court rendered
an agreed order pursuant to their joint complaint. As it
relates to this appeal, the agreed order specified that: both
parties shared joint legal custody of the minor child;
Timmons was awarded primary physical custody, and Taylor was
awarded visitation; Taylor was to pay Timmons child support
in the amount of $300 per month due on the first day of each
and every month; and Taylor was also to pay daycare and
after-school expenses, public and/or private school tuition
for the child beginning in first grade, all extracurricular
activity expenses, one-half of uninsured medical expenses,
and also to maintain health insurance for the child.
In August 2013, the Mississippi Department of Human Services
(DHS) filed a petition on behalf of Timmons to modify the
final judgment, seeking an upward modification of
Taylor's child-support obligation. Taylor filed an answer
and counter-complaint, seeking a modification of the agreed
order to award him physical custody of the child. Then, in
April 2014, Timmons, represented pro bono by an attorney
volunteering through Mission First's Legal Aid Office,
filed a petition for a judgment of contempt, alleging that
Taylor had failed to pay child support and also requesting an
award of attorney's fees. Taylor filed his answer and
later filed a petition for litigation accountability, which
alleged he was never in arrears. Finally, in October 2014,
Taylor filed a petition for contempt, alleging that Timmons
had denied him his visitation rights and seeking an award of
The chancellor heard the matter on the above pleadings on
November 17, 2014, September 16, 2015, and September 17,
2015. At the close of the hearing, the chancellor made his
findings, which were reflected in the final judgment issued
in October 2015. From this judgment, Taylor now appeals.
Timmons did not file a brief in response to Taylor's
appeal. Usually, "failure of an appellee to file a brief
is tantamount to confession of error and will be accepted as
such . . . ." Rogillio v. Rogillio, 101 So.3d
150, 153 (¶12) (Miss. 2012) (quoting Dethlefs v.
Beau Maison Dev. Corp., 458 So.2d 714, 717 (Miss.
1984)). However, this Court has previously held that
"when matters on appeal touch the welfare of a minor
child, then regardless of whether a party filed a brief, this
Court 'will reach the merits of the issues in this
appeal, though we proceed unaided by a brief from the
appellee.'" Self v. Lewis, 64 So.3d 578,
584 (¶28) (Miss. Ct. App. 2011) (quoting S.S. v.
S.H., 44 So.3d 1054, 1056 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App.
2010)); see also Barber v. Barber, 608 So.2d 1338,
1340 (Miss. 1992). Accordingly, in the instant custody case,
we reach the merits of the case and apply our familiar
standard of review as stated below.
Our standard of review in domestic-relations cases is
limited. Bowen v. Bowen, 107 So.3d 166, 169
(¶6) (Miss. Ct. App. 2012) (citing Arrington v.
Arrington, 80 So.3d 160, 164 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App.
2012)). "The findings of a chancellor will not be
disturbed when supported by substantial evidence unless the
chancellor abused his discretion, was manifestly wrong [or]
clearly erroneous, or an erroneous legal standard was
applied." Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). "[W]e review de novo the chancellor's
interpretation and application of the law." Seale ...