OF JUDGMENT: 06/24/2016
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. J. LARRY BUFFINGTON TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: TOMMY WAYNE DEFER
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: TIMOTHY BAXTER TUCKER
GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.
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.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...