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Baker v. Baker

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

June 19, 2018

RAMONA BAKER APPELLANT
v.
NAKIA BAKER APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/04/2016

          WASHINGTON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. JANE R. WEATHERSBY TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: BRANDON ISAAC DORSEY

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: WILLIAM R. STRIEBECK

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., WILSON AND TINDELL, JJ.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. The Washington County Chancery Court granted Nakia and Ramona Baker an irreconcilable-differences divorce. On appeal, Ramona challenges the chancellor's distribution of the marital estate and refusal to award periodic alimony. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the chancellor's judgment.

         FACTS

         ¶2. The parties married on December 26, 1998. They bought a house on Billings Street (the Billings Street home), and in December 2003, they welcomed a daughter. During a separation in 2008, Ramona testified that she moved into a separate residence. Ramona stated that she subsequently sold that home for a profit, which she used as a down payment to buy a lot on Princeton Street. In 2010, the parties built a second marital home (the Princeton Street home) on the lot.

         ¶3. On August 29, 2012, Ramona filed a divorce complaint on the grounds of adultery and cruel and inhuman treatment or, alternatively, irreconcilable differences. On November 20, 2012, the Washington County County Court issued a "Final Mutual Protective Order" to the parties after finding they had been involved in multiple domestic-violence disputes and "that[, ] on multiple occasions[, ] both parties were the principal aggressors[, ] and neither party acted in self-defense." The county court gave Nakia temporary use of the Billings Street home and Ramona temporary use of the Princeton Street home. The county court also awarded Ramona temporary custody of the parties' daughter, awarded Nakia temporary visitation, and ordered Nakia to pay temporary child support. On May 27, 2014, Nakia answered Ramona's divorce complaint, asserted his affirmative defenses, and filed a counterclaim for divorce.

         ¶4. At the start of their divorce hearing on September 30, 2014, the parties withdrew their fault-based grounds and consented to an irreconcilable-differences divorce. The parties also announced their agreement on the following issues: (1) shared legal custody of their daughter; (2) sole physical custody to Ramona with reasonable visitation rights to Nakia; (3) continued child-support payments by Nakia at fourteen percent of his monthly adjusted gross income;[1] (4) exclusive ownership of the Billings Street home and sole responsibility for the related mortgage payments to Nakia; and (5) exclusive ownership of the Princeton Street home and sole responsibility for the related mortgage payments to Ramona.[2] The only remaining issues the parties submitted for the chancellor's determination were the distribution of their marital estate and Ramona's periodic-alimony request.

         ¶5. On March 4, 2016, the chancellor entered a judgment granting the parties an irreconcilable-differences divorce. The chancellor determined the date of valuation for the parties' marital assets was November 20, 2012, the entry date of the county court's protective order. After considering the Ferguson[3] factors, the chancellor awarded Ramona the following marital assets valued at $110, 600: the equity in the Princeton Street home ($85, 000), the home's furnishings and appliances ($20, 000), and Ramona's Toyota 4Runner ($5, 600). The chancellor awarded Nakia the following marital assets valued at $110, 660: the equity in the Billings Street home ($23, 000), the home's furnishings and appliances ($4, 000), Nakia's 1999 Chevrolet truck ($4, 430) and 2006 Chevrolet Corvette ($23, 000), and his retirement account ($56, 230). The chancellor ordered the parties to be responsible for any debt associated with their assigned marital assets. The chancellor also found that the equitable distribution of the marital estate eliminated the need for an alimony award. Aggrieved by the chancellor's distribution of the marital estate and refusal to award periodic alimony, Ramona appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6. This Court applies a limited standard of review to a chancellor's division and distribution of marital property. Sims v. Sims, 169 So.3d 937, 940 (¶10) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014). We will affirm the chancellor's distribution of marital assets "as long as 'it is supported by substantial credible evidence.'" Id. (quoting Bowen v. Bowen, 982 So.2d 385, 394 (ΒΆ32) (Miss. 2008)). We also decline to reverse the chancellor's determination regarding an award of alimony absent manifest error or an abuse ...


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