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Jones v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 6, 2018

SHEILA ANN JONES A/K/A SHEILA JONES GEORGE APPELLANT
v.
MICHAEL BOYD JONES A/K/A MIKE JONES APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/24/2016

         PONTOTOC COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. J. LARRY BUFFINGTON TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: TOMMY WAYNE DEFER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: TIMOTHY BAXTER TUCKER

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Sheila Ann Jones brought a contempt action against Michael Boyd Jones ("Mike"), her former husband, based on his failure to comply with their divorce judgment. At the close of her case-in-chief, the Special Chancellor granted Mike's motion for a directed verdict and denied her petition. In addition, the Special Chancellor set aside the parties' divorce judgment and property-settlement agreement. We reverse, render, and remand for further proceedings as set forth in this opinion.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Mike and Sheila were married for almost thirty-four years. They filed a pro se Joint Complaint for Divorce on February 6, 2012. They attached an "Agreement" to the complaint. The Agreement included provisions for child custody and support, property settlement, and spousal support, among other provisions.

         ¶3. Their "Final Decree of Divorce - Irreconcilable Differences" (the "Judgment") was presented to Chancellor Jacqueline Mask. Chancellor Mask approved and executed the Judgment on May 4, 2012. The Judgment included the same provisions that the parties had agreed to and included in their Agreement.

         ¶4. On June 3, 2015, Sheila filed a "Petition for Contempt of Court." Sheila claimed that Mike had failed to comply with the terms of the Judgment. Specifically, she asked that Mike be held in contempt and ordered to pay the amounts he owed under the Judgment.

         ¶5. On November 16, 2015, the contempt matter was set for hearing before a special chancellor. Sheila's counsel made an oral motion for a continuance, based on matters that had been discussed by the attorneys and the chancellor in chambers. Neither the discussion nor the subject of the discussion was on the record. Mike objected to the continuance, and the chancellor denied the motion. Mike's attorney then announced that Mike would assert three affirmative defenses to the contempt petition: (1) the doctrine of laches, (2) the statute of frauds, and (3) lack of consideration. No written answer was filed.

         ¶6. Sheila was the only witness who testified. She testified that their daughter prepared their divorce documents, Mike reviewed the documents, and Mike made changes to the Agreement. She also testified that Mike signed the complaint for divorce, the Agreement, and the Judgment. The two provisions in the Agreement and Judgment relevant here are:

The parties agree that [Mike] will pay [Sheila] for her share of [the] house located at 1442 Topsy Rd, Randolph, MS in the amount of $25, 000.00 to be paid in monthly increments of $500.00 that are to begin when spousal support ends.
. . . .
The parties agree that [Mike] shall pay [Sheila] spousal support in the amount of $300.00 monthly beginning with the Final Decree and lasting until remarried, but ...

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