ELLE A. ADAMS APPELLANT
JOHN LEON RICE APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 04/06/2016
FROM WHICH APPEALED: OKTIBBEHA COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON.
DOROTHY WINSTON COLOM
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ELLE A. ADAMS (PRO SE)
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: MARK G. WILLIAMSON
IRVING, P.J., BARNES AND WILSON, JJ.
Elle Adams (a.k.a. Elle Aquilera, Ellie Adams, Elle Agundis),
appearing pro se, appeals the judgment of the Oktibbeha
County Chancery Court, which found that she was in contempt
for not allowing John Rice visitation with their minor child.
Additionally, the chancery court declined to modify custody.
Elle appeals, raising issues of judicial bias, jurisdiction,
child custody, and ineffective assistance of counsel. Finding
no error, we affirm.
OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This appeal stems from John's petition for contempt and
modification of child custody filed in November 2015. He
alleged that Elle refused to allow him visitation or contact
with their two-year old child, Aaron. John requested that Elle be
held in contempt for her failure to follow the court's
order and be required to pay his attorney's fees and
other costs. Additionally, John requested that the court
modify its prior order and award him physical custody of
Aaron subject to Elle's restricted and supervised
The initial action of this case was filed in December 2013.
John filed a petition to establish paternity, custody, and
support of Aaron. He initially requested custody of Aaron.
Elle filed a counterclaim for custody, child support, and
medical expenses incurred from the birth of the child. After
a September 2014 hearing, the issues were narrowed to
visitation privileges, health insurance, and child support,
as John's paternity had been established, and he no
longer desired physical custody.
In its opinion and final judgment of December 2014, the
chancery court granted Elle physical custody of Aaron, with
both parties having joint legal custody. John was awarded
visitation consisting of alternating weekends and specific
holidays. At the time, Elle lived in Gulf Shores, Alabama,
and John lived in Starkville, Mississippi; so the parties
were to exchange the child at the Meridian Police Department.
John was ordered to pay child support. Elle appealed the
judgment, arguing the chancellor erred in granting
unsupervised visitation to John and joint legal custody.
Adams v. Rice, 196 So.3d 1086, 1089 (¶9) (Miss.
Ct. App. 2016). She also claimed the chancellor should have
declined jurisdiction based on the doctrine of forum non
conveniens. Id. at 1090 (¶14). This Court
affirmed the chancery court. Id. at (¶16).
In February 2015, a family court in Jefferson County,
Alabama, granted Elle an ex parte temporary protection order
due to alleged domestic abuse by John. She claimed she fled
to Alabama to escape John's abuse. On August 17, 2015,
the Alabama family court made the order permanent,
"suspended" John's visitation, and closed the
On November 12, 2015, John filed his petition for citation of
contempt and modification of custody. In February 2016, Elle
filed motions to appoint a court interpreter and to contest
the chancery court's jurisdiction under the Uniform Child
Custody Jurisdictional Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). In response
to the motion for an interpreter, John revealed that Elle
actually worked as a Spanish interpreter. He reasoned that
she was merely trying to delay the proceedings. As for the
jurisdictional motion, John argued that the initial custody
determination was made in Oktibbeha County, where he still
lived, but Elle unilaterally moved to Alabama with neither a
job nor friends with the intent to separate him from his son.
On March 14, 2016, Elle obtained another ex parte temporary
protection order, this time in Baldwin County,
Alabama. On March 15, 2016, John filed a motion for
Elle to bring their child to the final hearing scheduled for
March 31, 2016, because John had not seen him since the
September 2014 hearing. Elle failed to appear at the March
22, 2016 hearing on these motions, but she was represented by
counsel. The chancellor denied Elle's two motions and
granted John's motion. The chancellor ruled that
Elle's failure to appear was fatal to both motions, as no
testimony or evidence was presented in their support.
On March 30, 2016, one day prior to the final hearing, Elle
filed an answer and counterclaim. She denied that she was in
contempt. Elle alleged that she was under the protection of
the Baldwin County order and formerly under the protection of
the Jefferson County order. Additionally, Elle requested that
the court hold John in contempt for failure to pay child
support. Elle also filed the aforementioned motion
for the chancellor's recusal with the Mississippi Supreme
At the final hearing on March 31, 2016, Elle again did not
appear or produce the child as ordered. She told her attorney
the reason for her absence was because Aaron was sick and had
a doctor's appointment. Elle's counsel appeared and
represented her client in her absence; however, counsel was
forced to rest without presenting any testimony or evidence.
The chancery court issued a detailed opinion and final
judgment. The chancellor found she had jurisdiction under the
UCCJEA. The chancellor was not convinced that there was a
legitimate threat of domestic violence against Elle, finding
her claims of rape and abuse were not credible. It was the
chancellor's opinion that Elle was using the benefits of
domestic protection orders "as a means to circumvent the
orders of this court." The chancellor further determined
that the protection orders did not thwart jurisdiction: the
Jefferson County order had been dismissed; and the Baldwin
County protection order, if still in effect, had no authority
to interfere with the chancery court's decision. The
chancellor noted that John had no notice of the Baldwin
County order, nor had the Baldwin county court contacted the
Mississippi chancery court to discuss custody or visitation.
The chancellor also noted the fact that Elle failed to appear
at the March 31 hearing to address the issues she raised by
The chancellor also found Elle in contempt for failure to
comply with the visitation schedule of the December 2014
order. John had absolutely no visitation with his son since
September 2014, and the chancellor found Elle had "a
pattern [of] misuse [of] the judicial system to thwart
John's legal right to visit and bond with his son."
Elle was also found in contempt for failing to produce the
child at the March 31 hearing. While Elle's attorney
informed the chancellor that Elle had texted her numerous
times to explain that Aaron had been sick and had a
doctor's appointment, no documentation was presented to
justify the failure. Because Elle failed to appear and offer
proof, John was not held in contempt for failure to pay child
support; however, he was ordered to pay the arrearage to
Elle. Regarding modification of custody, Elle was denied sole
custody of Aaron, and John was denied physical custody of
Aaron "at this time." The chancellor found that
while Elle's denial of visitation caused a material
change of circumstances that adversely affected Aaron, after
evaluating the Albright factors, she found that a
change of custody to John was not in Aaron's best
interest, as Aaron had yet to develop a bond with John. The
visitation schedule of the original custody order was to
remain in effect.
Elle appeals pro se, raising four issues: (1) the chancellor
should have recused as she harbored bias against Elle; (2)
the chancery court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case due
to the Alabama protective orders; (3) the chancellor erred by