OF JUDGMENT: 02/24/2016
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. T. K. MOFFETT JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: KURT AUGUST MORD.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: HOPE SHOWS CROSS (PRO SE).
LEE, C.J., WILSON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
Greg Shows and Hope Shows Cross divorced in February 2007.
The divorce decree awarded Hope physical custody of the
couple's only child, S.S. In December 2011, Greg filed a
petition to modify custody. A hearing on the petition was
held over the course of four days in 2012, 2015, and 2016.
After Greg presented his case, the chancellor dismissed his
petition to modify custody, finding that he had failed to
meet his burden of proving a material change in circumstances
that adversely affected S.S. On appeal, Greg challenges that
ruling as well as the chancellor's rulings on issues of
child support, contempt, and the apportionment of the fees of
the guardian ad litem (GAL). For the reasons discussed below,
we find no error and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Greg and Hope married in July 2005; their son, S.S., was born
in March 2006; they separated in May 2006; and the chancery
court entered a final judgment of divorce based on
irreconcilable differences in February 2007.
The divorce decree adopted and incorporated the parties'
custody and property settlement agreement. The parties agreed
to joint legal custody of S.S. with Hope to have
"primary physical custody." Greg was granted visitation,
including alternating weekends, four weeks in the summer,
spring break, and certain holidays. The agreement also
required Greg to pay child support as follows:
1. The parties agree that [Greg] will pay, as and for support
of [S.S], the monthly amount of $200.00 . . . .
2. Additionally, as and for further monthly child support,
[Greg] shall pay one-half of day-care for [S.S.] per month or
$135.00, whichever is greater. When [Greg] pays the current
monthly support amount of $200.00 he shall also pay his
portion of the day-care expenses, as stated herein, for the
preceding month, so that when the $200.00 for February 
is paid by [Greg], his portion of the January  day-care
expenses shall be added and paid at that time, and likewise
for every month.
In December 2011, Greg filed a petition for modification of
custody seeking "primary physical custody" of S.S.
Greg alleged that Hope had remarried and had "allow[ed]
both her new husband, as well as [her] children by a previous
marriage, to emotionally and verbally abuse [S.S.]" Greg
also alleged that Hope "herself had verbally abused
[S.S.]" Greg's petition requested appointment of a
GAL for S.S.
Hope answered Greg's petition and also filed a petition
for contempt and a counter- complaint to modify or clarify
the visitation provisions of the parties' agreement. Hope
alleged that Greg had violated the agreement's child
support and visitation provisions. Hope denied that a GAL was
necessary, but the chancellor subsequently appointed attorney
Jonathan Martin as GAL for S.S.
The hearing on Greg's petition and Hope's petition
and counter-complaint was held on October 30, 2012; July 16,
2015; and February 17 and 24, 2016. Chancellor Talmadge
Littlejohn presided over the first two days of the hearing;
however, Chancellor Littlejohn passed away in October 2015.
The case was then reassigned to Chancellor T.K. Moffett, who
presided over the final two days of the hearing.
On the first day of the hearing, Greg testified that he was
living in Senatobia with his new wife, Kip, and a
stepdaughter, who was then seven years old. Greg was
unemployed at the time, as he had recently closed a used car
lot and was still collecting on some car notes. Kip was
employed as a sales manager for a company that sells shipping
Greg alleged that Hope had refused to allow him to have
scheduled weekend visitation with S.S. three times between
2008 and 2010. He also alleged that seven to ten times he had
to ask the sheriff's department to accompany him to pick
up S.S. for visitation. Greg claimed that he needed the
sheriff's department's help because Hope had
threatened that her new husband, Kenny, would "kick
[his] A." Greg also testified that Hope interfered with
his phone calls with S.S. by requiring S.S. to talk to him on
speaker and then eaves-dropping on their conversations. Greg
testified that he could hear cursing and threats in the
background when he talked to S.S. on the phone. Greg claimed
that S.S. was "withdrawn" when Greg picked him up
at Hope's house, that his demeanor improved while he was
with Greg, and that S.S. became upset and cried when he had
to go back to Hope's house.
Greg testified that in 2011 he became concerned about
S.S.'s "withdrawn" and "defiant"
behavior. Without consulting Hope, Greg took S.S. to a
licensed professional counselor, Tajuana Williams, in
September 2011. Williams testified that when she began
counseling S.S., who was then five years old, she was
concerned that he exhibited symptoms of depression, that he
reported hearing a lot of profanity at his mother's
house, and that he described Hope as "mean." S.S.
also told Williams that his stepfather, Kenny, "had
wiped poop on his face"; however, after questioning S.S.
further, Williams could not determine what he meant or what
exactly happened. Hope told Williams that S.S. simply had
misunderstood a bad "joke." Williams initially
"had concerns of neglect, verbal abuse, and possible
physical abuse." Prior to one session, Greg told
Williams that S.S. had slapped his stepsister at Greg's
house, and when Williams discussed the incident with S.S., he
told her that step-siblings at Hope's house had slapped
him. This concerned Williams, but she testified that the
incidents "could also be just children playing."
On cross-examination, Williams testified that she ultimately
found no evidence of physical abuse, even after follow-up
medical examinations by physicians. In addition, after
Williams reported her initial concerns to the Department of
Human Services (DHS), DHS investigated and found no evidence
of physical abuse. Williams opined that some of the incidents
that S.S. described to her constituted "emotional
maltreatment, " but she was unwilling to use the term
"emotional abuse." Williams also acknowledged that
she had never seen S.S. interact with Hope or Kenny, so she
had only seen "one side of the picture." Williams
also testified that S.S.'s initial complaints that Hope
was "mean" were non-specific, and in later sessions
S.S. told her that Hope was "being nice."
Williams stopped counseling S.S. in May 2012 because he was
"happy" and "healthy" and no longer
exhibited symptoms of anxiety or depression. Williams
confirmed that S.S. was doing well in school and had not had
any disciplinary problems. The hearing recessed at the
conclusion of Williams's testimony.
As noted above, the hearing recessed for about thirty-two
months between the first and second days of testimony. In the
interim, lawyers on both sides withdrew, new lawyers entered
appearances, and there were a number of continuances, most of
which Greg requested.
In addition, on July 31, 2013, Greg filed an emergency motion
for temporary custody in which he alleged: (a) that S.S. was
undergoing counseling and that his counselor had advised it
was not in his best interest to be returned to Hope's
custody and (b) that S.S. had been "diagnosed . . . with
ulcers associated with the fear of returning to [Hope's]
home and other related matters." Hope denied Greg's
allegations and filed a petition for contempt based on
Greg's failure to return S.S. to her. Based on the
GAL's recommendation, the chancellor found that returning
S.S. to Hope's custody pending a final hearing on the
merits would not result in any irreparable harm to S.S. The
chancellor therefore denied Greg's emergency motion for
Before the hearing resumed, Greg also filed a motion to allow
S.S. to testify and for an "in camera Jethrow
examination" of S.S. The hearing finally resumed on July 16,
2015, with Greg still on direct examination.
Greg testified that in June 2013 his family and Hope's
family both attended a baseball game of S.S.'s in Amory.
Greg claimed that after the game Hope approached him and Kip
and began "mouthing and saying stuff to us."
According to Greg, Hope and her sister then
"attacked" him and his sister. Greg testified that
S.S. witnessed part of the altercation and was "very
shook up and ...