BENARDRICK C. McKINNEY
KASEY HAMP BENARDRICK CORNELIUS McKINNEY
OF JUDGMENT: 04/21/2016
OF JUDGMENT: 07/27/2016
NICOLE MORRIS TONYA YEVETTE POWELL DALANEY LEE MECHAM, HON.
WATOSA MARSHALL SANDERS TRIAL JUDGE
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. WATOSA MARSHALL SANDERS, TRIAL
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: TONYA YEVETTE POWELL.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: STEPHANIE NICOLE MORRIS ERICA JEAN
RANDOLPH, P.J., COLEMAN AND MAXWELL, JJ.
In these consolidated appeals, we find the chancellor
properly included a professional athlete's signing bonus
as part of his gross income when crafting a child-support
award. We also hold that a chancellor's order for
prospective monthly child-support payments cannot be stayed
by a clerk-approved supersedeas bond under Mississippi Rule
of Appellate Procedure 8(a).
But until today, this Court had not addressed Rule 8(a)'s
effect on prospective child- support payments. So it was
reasonable for the father to have relied on his
attorney's advice that the award was stayed. Thus, he
should not have been held in contempt for nonpayment of the
increased support award. ¶3. We affirm in part, reverse
and remand in part, and reverse and render in part.
Facts and Procedural History
Paternity and Child Support
Benardrick McKinney and Kasey Hamp's son, K.M., was born
out of wedlock while McKinney attended and played football
for Mississippi State University. In his junior year, McKinney
was selected in the second round of the National Football
League (NFL) draft and signed a contract to play professional
football for the Houston Texans.
Before McKinney signed his NFL contract, Hamp sought
assistance to pay for K.M.'s support and expenses. The
Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) became
involved in her child-support request. And on October 15,
2014, DHS filed a complaint in Tunica County against McKinney
to determine paternity and child support. On March 16, 2015,
a paternity test showed a 99.99% probability that McKinney
was K.M.'s father. The paternity test results led DHS to
return to chancery court. And on June 15, 2015, the
chancellor entered a temporary order awarding Hamp $150 per
month in child support. McKinney voluntarily increased his
support obligation to $750 per month.
The next day, Hamp, individually, filed a complaint for child
support in Tunica County. She pointed out that McKinney's
income had increased substantially since DHS had filed its
complaint. McKinney had signed a four-year,
several-million-dollar NFL contract, which included a
substantial signing bonus.
McKinney answered the complaint and raised a counterclaim
seeking custody of K.M. In his answer, McKinney argued that
because DHS had already obtained a child-support award in
another suit, Hamp failed to both state a claim and join a
necessary party-DHS. Hamp petitioned to amend her complaint
to name DHS as a party, but the chancellor denied her
request. On July 30, 2015, the chancellor dismissed
Hamp's complaint without prejudice. Hamp then filed a
petition for modification of child support in the DHS lawsuit
on September 14, 2015.
On February 25, 2016, Hamp and McKinney again appeared before
the chancellor on the custody counterclaim. Both agreed they
had resolved custody and visitation issues. And though the
DHS lawsuit was still pending, the parties asked to proceed
on the child-support issue. The DHS attorney was agreeable to
moving forward on the support matter.
When the hearing concluded, the chancellor asked the parties,
including DHS, to provide briefs addressing whether
McKinney's signing bonus should be considered gross
income. But before submitting a brief, McKinney filed a
motion to recuse the chancellor. He took issue with the
chancellor's comments and expressions from the
bench-particularly her asking Hamp whether her father was
K.C. Hamp, the Tunica County sheriff. The chancellor denied
McKinney's motion. She insisted she did not know the
sheriff personally. She also maintained, as she had at trial,
that she would follow the statutory and caselaw requirements
when setting child support.
In DHS's supplemental chancery court brief, DHS argued
McKinney's signing bonus should be considered gross
income. McKinney disagreed and argued it should not. From the
record, it does not appear Hamp filed a brief.
On April 21, 2016, the chancellor consolidated McKinney's
custody counterclaim and the DHS child-support suit. Four
days later, the chancellor entered an agreed order
determining custody and visitation. But the child-support
issue remained unresolved.
On April 27, 2016, the chancellor entered her findings and
order on the child-support claim. She addressed three main
issues: (1) whether to include McKinney's signing bonus
as regular income; (2) the amount of monthly child support;
and (3) who should claim K.M. as a dependent for taxes.
Using McKinney's Uniform Chancery Court Rule 8.05
disclosure and other financial records, the chancellor found
there had been a material change in circumstances. She found
McKinney's signing a NFL contract required the temporary
DHS order to be modified upward. Citing primarily Mississippi
Code Section 43-19-101(3)(a), the chancellor determined
McKinney's signing bonus should factor into the
child-support award. But she decided it should be calculated
independently from his nonbonus income and would be
retroactive. She then took McKinney's signing bonus-after
taxes and deductions-and divided it over five years. She
ordered monthly child-support payments of $407.61 for four
years and a one-year "retroactive" payment of $4,
The chancellor then turned to McKinney's nonbonus income
and determined his annual adjusted gross income after taxes
and deductions. She also found that, because Hamp was in
school and K.M. should benefit from McKinney's increased
financial status, the statutory fourteen-percent
child-support rate for noncustodial parent income applied.
The chancellor ultimately ordered monthly child-support
payments of $2, 410.37 and a retroactive payment of $18,
264.07. The chancellor also ordered that McKinney and Hamp
alternate claiming K.M. as a dependent for tax purposes each
year. McKinney disagreed with each child-support award and
Contempt and Supersedeas Bond
On June 30, 2016-before McKinney had secured a supersedeas
bond for appeal-Hamp filed a motion for contempt and
attorney's fees. She claimed McKinney had failed to make
any payments required by the chancellor's child-support
order. McKinney ultimately secured a supersedeas bond, which
was approved by the Tunica County chancery clerk on July 14,
2016. The next day he responded to Hamp's motion. He
pointed to the supersedeas bond and asked the court to
dismiss the contempt issue.
The chancellor heard arguments on Hamp's motion. In a
July 27, 2016 order, she found McKinney's supersedeas
bond was ineffective to stay enforcement of the child-support
order. Citing Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 8(a),
the chancellor held the monthly and retroactive child-support
payments were "not a money judgment or a judgment solely
for payment of money." And even if Rule 8(a) applied to
the child-support order, McKinney's bond did not meet the
rule's 125-percent requirement. Though McKinney's
bond was for $28, 434.73, she found the child-support
payments continually accrued until the contempt motion was
heard. So, as she saw it, the bond should have been at least
$36, 184.65. For these reasons, she found his bond was
ineffective-despite that the bond had already been approved
and the chancery clerk had issued a stay on enforcement.
After the April 25, 2016 child-support order was entered,
McKinney continued paying Hamp $750 per month-the amount he
had been paying since the temporary DHS order in June 2015.
While the chancellor credited McKinney for these payments,
she ruled the remaining delinquent amount must be paid
immediately. She then, in turn, awarded Hamp attorney's
fees. To determine a reasonable amount, she required Hamp to
provide an itemized statement and affidavits. Hamp submitted
those items on August 8, 2016. McKinney filed a memorandum
response, with his own affidavits, contesting an
attorney's-fees award. On August 22, 2016, the chancellor
awarded Hamp $3, 316.41 in attorney's fees and required
McKinney to pay within ten days. Again, McKinney timely
In the consolidated appeals before this Court, McKinney
raises nine issues: (1) his signing bonus was wrongly
considered gross income; (2) his mandatory retirement
contributions were not deducted from gross income; (3) the
retroactive support payments were based on incorrect income;
(4) there were no written findings on whether the statutory
child-support guidelines should apply; (5) only he should
claim K.M. as a dependent for taxes; (6) Hamp's Rule 8.05
disclosure was submitted ex parte; (7) the trial court lacked
jurisdiction to hear the contempt motion; (8) his conduct was
not willful, deliberate, or contumacious; and (9) the
attorney's fees award was excessive and unsupported by
In matters of divorce, alimony, and child support, this Court
will not disturb a chancellor's ruling unless it was
manifestly wrong or an erroneous legal standard was applied.
Lahmann v. Hallmon, 722 So.2d 614, 618 (Miss. 1998).
Questions of law are reviewed de novo. Lewis v.
Pagel, 172 So.3d 162, 172 (Miss. 2015).
Neither party disputes that McKinney received a substantial
signing bonus when he signed with the Houston Texans. But
they disagree over whether it qualifies as gross income for
child-support purposes. While Hamp argues for its inclusion,
McKinney maintains the signing bonus was a one-time
payment-not a recurring bonus.
Mississippi Code Section 43-19-101(3) provides the formula
for calculating adjusted gross income for child-support
awards. This statute directs that gross income
must be calculated "from all potential sources that may
reasonably be expected to be available to the absent
parent." Miss. Code Ann. § 43-19-101(3)(a)
(emphasis added). The chancellor found the signing bonus
qualified as "any other payment" or "any
other form of earned income." Id. And because
McKinney had already received the bonus, the chancellor found
the income was "reasonably . . . expected to be
available" to McKinney. Id.
Indeed, the record shows McKinney received all of
his signing bonus in 2015. And McKinney does not contest that
chancellors may consider annual bonuses as part of gross
income when awarding child support. See Alderson v.
Morgan ex rel. Champion, 739 So.2d 465, 467-68 (Miss.
Ct. App. 1999). Instead, he points out his signing bonus is
not an annual performance bonus or some other potentially
recurring income. And because he has entered a multiyear
contract, it cannot be "reasonably expected" he
will sign a new contract with the Texans or another team
annually. He argues his situation is akin to Johnston v.
Johnston, where we found it was "unreasonable and
clearly erroneous" for a chancellor to include in a
child-support award a father's income from teaching a
one-time training course when "[the father] had no
contract or expectation for this additional employment to
continue." Johnston v. Johnston, 722 So.2d 453,
461 (Miss. 1998). After review, we find McKinney's
employment situation and signing bonus are far different from
the general uncertainty of a parent's supplemental
income. Nor does his bonus bear much resemblance to money
obtained from a parent's unexpected corporate buyout.
See Robertson v. Robertson, 812 So.2d 998, 1002
(Miss. Ct. App. 2001) (father's buyout was not
"reasonably expected" and "it was certainly
not a yearly event" like a bonus). There is really no
legitimate comparison between these scenarios and
McKinney is an NFL linebacker, not a moonlighting parent.
And, according to the record, his signing bonus accounts for
a major guaranteed portion of his income as a professional
athlete. Under Section 43-19-101(3), gross income for child
support must be calculated from "all potential sources
that may reasonably be expected to be available to the absent
parent . . . ." Because the bonus has already been
received, it was certainly "reasonably expected to be
available"-as contemplated by Mississippi law. So we
cannot find the chancellor was wrong to deem it "gross
income" for child-support purposes. ¶24. However,
it appears the chancellor was incorrect about the duration of
McKinney's NFL contract. The bulk of the record supports
that McKinney's NFL contract was for four years, not
five. So we reverse and remand for the chancellor to
recalculate the child-support order to reflect McKinney's
contract as a four-year contract.