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Collins v. Mississippi Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

June 13, 2017

LISA COLLINS APPELLANT
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/09/2015

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PONTOTOC COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. C. MICHAEL MALSKI JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DALTON CLINTON MIDDLETON

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JEFF SKINNER JOSHUA LEE EURE LEWIS CLARK HUNTER

         EN BANC.

          CARLTON, J.

         ¶1. Lisa Collins[1] appeals the judgment of the Pontotoc County Chancery Court requiring that she pay child support for her son, Adam Summers, a minor. The Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) initiated an action against Lisa seeking child-support payments for the support of Lisa's son, Adam. Lisa filed an answer denying that she should have to pay child support and also filed a cross-complaint for emancipation, requesting that the chancellor emancipate Adam.

         ¶2. After a hearing, the chancellor entered an order finding that Lisa failed to support Adam emotionally or financially, and that Lisa and Adam had contributed to the erosion of the parent-child relationship equally. The chancellor ordered Lisa "to pay 14% of her adjusted gross income as child support, retroactive to November 20, 2014, the day of the filing of the complaint."

         ¶3. Lisa now appeals the chancellor's order, arguing that: (1) the chancellor erred in requiring Lisa to pay child support for Adam, and (2) the chancellor's factual findings are not supported by substantial evidence. Because we find that substantial credible evidence supports the chancellor's judgment and findings, we affirm.[2]

         FACTS

         ¶4. Adam was born October 17, 1997, to Lisa and her then-husband, Albert Ralph Summers (Ralph). Lisa and Ralph separated when Adam was eighteen months old and eventually divorced. After the divorce, Adam lived with Lisa in West Memphis, Arkansas, until he was eight years old.

         ¶5. Adam and Lisa's second husband, Arnold Owens, had a difficult relationship, resulting in Adam moving to Joiner, Arkansas, to live with his father, Ralph. Ralph died when Adam was thirteen years old.[3] Adam then moved in with Lisa and her third husband, Geoffrey Collins. Over the next three years, Adam moved from relative to relative due to his behavioral issues.

         ¶6. The record reflects that in July 2013, Adam visited Lisa and Geoffrey. During the visit, a fight ensued between Geoffrey and Adam, resulting in Adam choking Geoffrey, Geoffrey biting Adam, and Lisa being thrown down. After this incident, Adam and Lisa had no further contact with one another.

         ¶7. At the age of sixteen, Adam eventually moved in with his paternal uncle, Victor Summers, and Victor's wife, Debbie. Victor and Debbie were appointed as co-guardians of Adam on September 9, 2014. After Adam exhibited inappropriate behavior, including pornography use and both oral sex and vaginal intercourse with dogs, Victor and Debbie entered him into a program for emotionally disturbed children in Arlington, Tennessee.

         ¶8. On November 20, 2014, the MDHS initiated an action against Lisa to establish a child-support order for Adam due to Victor being a recipient of services under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act for the support of Adam. Lisa filed an answer denying that she should have to pay child support because Adam abandoned his relationship with Lisa, made serious allegations against her, and refuses to see her. Lisa also filed a counterclaim for emancipation, requesting that the chancellor emancipate Adam.

         ¶9. At a hearing held on December 1, 2015, the chancellor heard testimony from Lisa, Victor, and Debbie. The chancellor also admitted into evidence Adam's deposition testimony, which was taken in connection with the litigation.

         ¶10. The chancellor entered a final judgment on January 13, 2016.[4] In the final judgment, the chancellor dismissed Lisa's counterclaim for emancipation after finding that Adam failed to meet the requirements for ...


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