IN THE MATTER OF THE DISSOLUTION OF THE MARRIAGE OF JAMES CATLIN TULLOS AND JESSICA LYNN TUCKER TULLOS: JESSICA LYNN TUCKER TULLOS APPELLANT
JAMES CATLIN TULLOS APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 05/19/2016
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. GERALD MARION MARTIN TRIAL JUDGE:
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: W. TERRELL STUBBS LAUREN ELIZABETH
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: RAYMOND PATRICK TULLOS
IRVING, P.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
Jessica Tullos appeals the order modifying child custody and
support of her minor children. The order awarded her former
husband, James Tullos, physical custody of both minor
children and required Jessica to pay child support. It is
from that order that this appeal is taken.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Jessica and James were married on September 4, 2004. Two
children were born of that union. A joint complaint for
divorce was filed by James and Jessica on December 17, 2013.
On March 14, 2014, a judgment of divorce was entered for the
parties. Jessica was given physical custody of the minor
children, and James was given visitation and required to pay
$1,000 per month in child support.
On August 28, 2015, James filed a petition to modify the
judgment, requesting that the chancery court award him
physical custody of the minor children and require Jessica to
pay child support. James alleged that Jessica was using
illegal drugs in the presence of their children. Jessica was
served with the petition and a summons on September 4, 2015,
requiring that she appear at the Covington County Courthouse
in Collins, Mississippi. The original hearing date was set
for September 29, 2015.
On September 29, 2015, the court entered an order continuing
the case and resetting it for trial, and the hearing was
continued to October 15, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. in the Smith
County Courthouse in Raleigh, Mississippi. Raymond Tullos,
James's attorney, and Jessica, who was pro se, signed the
first order continuing the matter. On October 15, 2015, the
trial was continued by order of the court to December 10,
2015, at 9:30 a.m. in the Smith County Courthouse in Raleigh.
Jessica did not sign that order, and the record is unclear
whether Jessica was present.
On December 10, 2015, the chancery court entered another
order continuing the case to February 1, 2016, at 9:30 a.m.
in the Smith County Courthouse in Raleigh. Jessica did not
sign the order, and the record does not reflect whether she
was present at the hearing. Moreover, only the chancellor
signed the order continuing the matter. An order appointing
April Taylor Bryant as guardian ad litem (GAL) for the minor
children was also entered on February 1, 2016. On that same
day, the chancellor signed an order continuing the case to
March 30, 2016. On March 30, 2016, the fifth and final order
of continuance was signed by the chancellor, continuing the
hearing to May 19, 2016. While the order was signed, it was
not filed until March 31, 2016. The final order of
continuance was signed by James's attorney and the
chancellor but not Jessica, and the record is unclear if
Jessica was present at the hearing.
On May 19, 2016, a hearing on the petition to modify custody
was held. James, his attorney, and the GAL were present
during the hearing, but Jessica was not. James testified that
Jessica had moved to North Dakota with their son. James
stated that when he exercised his visitation rights and
picked up the children, sometimes Jessica was not at home and
the children had a dirty physical appearance. According to
James, Jessica was using illegal drugs and had used drugs in
front of their children. James stated that though Jessica had
not used drugs in his presence, he observed Jessica
inebriated in the presence of their children when he picked
them up for visitation. James also stated that Jessica's
mother, father, and stepmother called him and asked that he
not return the children to Jessica until they got Jessica
help for her drug use.
The GAL testified that she believed that it was in the best
interest of both minor children to reside with James.
According to the GAL, after she requested the younger child
B.J.'s school records, his school counselor
informed her that he had missed a number days. The GAL also
testified that the school counselor stated that B.J.'s
education had been impacted by Jessica's constant
relocation. The GAL stated that when she spoke with Jessica
regarding B.J.'s welfare, Jessica made false statements
about James's visitation and also gave the GAL an
incorrect physical address. When the GAL attempted to call
Jessica back, she could not reach her. The GAL left a
voicemail message informing Jessica that she would be
visiting both James's and Jessica's homes. ...