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Sandrock v. Sandrock

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 16, 2018

FREDERICK SANDROCK, III, JOELLEN SANDROCK AND JASON SANDROCK APPELLANTS
v.
CASSIE SANDROCK APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/19/2015

         HANCOCK COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. JAMES B. PERSONS, TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: RENEE M. PORTER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: PATRICK TAYLOR GUILD

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          BARNES, J.

         ¶1. On December 26, 2013, Jason Sandrock filed a complaint for declaratory relief and an injunction against his former wife, Cassie Sandrock, and his parents, Frederick Sandrock III (Fred) and Joellen Sandrock.[1] The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that funds Jason had received from insurance and a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home were given to Fred and Joellen as payment for a "Mortgage Agreement, " and that he is not required to pay Cassie half of those proceeds, as ordered by the Hancock County Chancery Court in a 2009 divorce judgment. The chancery court denied the complaint. Jason filed a motion to reconsider under Rule 59 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, as did Fred and Joellen. The court denied the motions, and Jason, Fred, and Joellen (Appellants) have now joined to appeal the court's judgment, arguing: (1) Fred and Joellen's due-process rights were violated; (2) the divorce judgment was not a final judgment; and (3) Cassie would be unjustly enriched by the payment of the judgment.

         ¶2. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3. The genesis of this appeal began on August 1, 2005, when Jason entered into a one- page notarized "Mortgage Agreement" with his father, Fred, for "one 3300 square foot frame house with a property location of 432 Tarpon Road, Bay St. Louis, MS 39520, " in exchange for monthly payments of $1, 000, which were to continue for 300 consecutive payments "until $300, 000 has been paid in full." Joellen and Cassie were not parties to the agreement. Jason and Cassie had been building the home on his parents' property since November 2004. Before Jason and Cassie could move into the home, however, Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, and the newly built structure was severely damaged. Jason, Fred, and Joellen were issued (as payees) two checks to reimburse the loss - $148, 601.98 in insurance proceeds on February 6, 2007, and $149, 327.86 in MDA grant money on August 6, 2009. Jason gave the bulk of the proceeds to Fred and Joellen.[2] Cassie was not listed as a payee on the checks.

         ¶4. On January15, 2009, a judgment of divorce was entered between Jason and Cassie. Noting the one-page "agreement, " Chancellor Carter Bise nonetheless found "no credible evidence" that Jason owed a debt to his parents for the construction of the home, finding instead that the "funds used to construct the home were a marital gift from [Jason's] parents during the marriage." The court also noted that both Cassie and Jason "worked a significant amount of time on the house." Therefore, in determining the equitable distribution of the marital assets through a Ferguson[3] analysis, Chancellor Bise concluded that "Cassie and Jason will divide equally the proceeds from insurance and grant monies, " and "Cassie will execute a quitclaim deed" for the subject property to Jason.

         ¶5. On March 26, 2009, Cassie filed a motion for contempt, as Jason had not paid her the court-ordered judgment. The Appellants state that Jason filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for contempt on August 7, 2009, as well as a counterclaim, requesting the chancery court correct the divorce judgment "to reflect that Tarpon was the property of Fred and Joellen[;] therefore[, ] all funds received for Tarpon were paid to them in order to satisfy Jason's mortgage obligation."[4]

         ¶6. Fred and Joellen filed a motion to intervene in the divorce on May 11, 2009, which the chancery court denied. They did not appeal the court's decision, but subsequently filed a motion for judicial foreclosure on the property against Jason and Cassie. A week before a hearing on the motion, on May 9, 2011, Jason filed a motion to continue and a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion in an attempt to modify the judgment of divorce, specifically the proceeds he was ordered to pay Cassie. He claimed there was new evidence, a deposition of Cassie's, that contradicted evidence presented at the divorce trial. He requested that the chancery court continue the case until the judicial-foreclosure proceedings were complete. The hearing on the judicial foreclosure was held on May 16, 2011.

         ¶7. On February 23, 2012, Chancellor Sanford Steckler issued a corrected nunc pro tunc judgment, granting Fred and Joellen's request for judicial foreclosure and terminating Jason's rights in the property (Cassie was not on the deed as a record title holder).[5] But the chancellor specifically noted:

The [c]ourt is deciding on the judicial[-]foreclosure issues herein and makes no determination as to whether or what effect[, ] if any, there is upon the divorce judgment between the ...

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