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Ali v. Townsend Ali

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

June 13, 2017

RONNIE ALI, APPELLANT
v.
AMY KAYE TOWNSEND ALI, APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/17/2015

         HARRISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. JAMES B. PERSONS TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DEAN HOLLEMAN

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: EARL L. DENHAM PHILLIP LANE NORWOOD MATTHEW PAUL PAVLOV

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

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. Dr. Ronnie Ali, 49, and nurse practitioner Amy Ali, 27, were married in 2003 and had a child together a few months later. They separated after almost seven years of marriage, and Amy filed for divorce.

         ¶2. Over the next several years they filed more than two hundred pleadings, with Amy filing the lion's share. The trial was bifurcated due to complex financial issues, especially those relating to several "urgent care" medical clinics owned by the couple. On March 7, 2013, Amy was granted a divorce on habitual cruel and inhuman treatment grounds. The remaining issues were tried over twelve days in February and March of 2014. A year later the chancellor entered a detailed twenty-six-page decision, dividing the parties' property and awarding Amy custody of the minor child, child support, and alimony.

         ¶3. Ronnie states in his brief that though he feels the chancellor erred in the equitable distribution, he "chooses" not to challenge it. Visitation, child support, alimony, attorney's fees, and life insurance remain at issue on appeal. We conclude that the chancellor applied the correct legal standards and acted within his discretion in awarding child support, alimony, and attorney's fees. Those awards must be affirmed. We remand, however, on the issues of visitation and insurance.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶4. "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 of fact, 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) (citation omitted). Questions of law, on the other hand, are reviewed de novo. Irving v. Irving, 67 So.3d 776, 778 (¶11) (Miss. 2011).

         DISCUSSION

         1. Visitation

         ¶5. The chancellor's final judgment contained no express order for permanent holiday or summer visitation, though it at times appears to presuppose they had been awarded.[1] On appeal, Ronnie contends this was error; and Amy concedes that it appears to be an oversight that should be clarified on remand to the chancery court. As this issue is conceded, we remand to the chancery court to clarify the visitation order.

         2. Alimony

         ¶6. Ronnie submits in his brief that the periodic alimony award, $5, 500 per month, is not appropriate in this case because "there was absolutely no disparity in Amy's financial position as compared to Ronnie's horrific financial position" after the equitable division. While he does not directly challenge the division, he nevertheless urges that, in mathematical terms, Amy received more value in the property division (approximately $390, 000) than the net value of the marital estate (approximately $280, 000), and significantly more than his net deficit after property division, attorney's fees, and litigation expenses (which he puts at $417, 000). Ronnie also points to Amy's income of $6, 000 per month as a nurse ...


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