OF JUDGMENT: 02/01/2017
GRENADA COUNTY CHANCERY COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PERCY L.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: A. E. (RUSTY) HARLOW JR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: CHARLES E. WINFIELD ASHLYN BROWN
IRVING, P.J., WILSON AND TINDELL, JJ.
Mark Campbell appeals the Grenada County Chancery Court's
judgment increasing his monthly child-support payments and
awarding attorney's fees to his ex-wife, Misty Campbell.
Upon review, we reverse the chancellor's upward
modification of Mark's child-support obligation and
render a judgment restoring the amount agreed upon by the
parties in their child-custody and property-settlement
agreement. We likewise reverse the chancellor's award of
attorney's fees to Misty, but we remand the issue for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Mark and Misty married on July 25, 1992, and they separated
on November 29, 2008. The parties had four children during
their marriage. At the time the parties filed for divorce,
their children were ages 13, 11, 9, and 6. The parties
consented to an irreconcilable-differences divorce and
submitted to the chancellor a written agreement on the issues
of child custody and property settlement. The agreement
provided that the parties would share joint legal custody of
their children and that Misty would retain physical custody
while Mark received reasonable visitation rights. In
addition, the agreement acknowledged that Mark's current
monthly gross income amounted to $66, 666.67 and that he
would pay Misty "child support [in] the sum of $1, 250
per month per child" until the children reached
"the age of 21, marr[ied], join[ed] the armed forces[, ]
or [were] otherwise fully emancipated according to law,
whichever occur[red] first." On September 20, 2010, the
chancellor entered a final divorce judgment that granted the
parties an irreconcilable-differences divorce. The
chancellor's judgment adopted and incorporated by
reference the parties' child-custody and
On March 18, 2016, Mark filed a petition for contempt and for
modification of the divorce decree. Mark alleged that his
oldest son had become emancipated, which should relieve him
of his child-support obligation to that son. In addition, Mark
claimed that his income had dramatically decreased, which
constituted a material change of circumstances and prevented
him from paying his current child-support obligations. Mark
therefore asked the chancellor to reduce his child-support
payments in accordance with Mississippi's child-support
guidelines. Finally, after asserting that, among other
things, Misty had abused or neglected the parties' three
minor children and intentionally interfered with Mark's
relationship and parenting time with the children, Mark
requested that the chancellor hold Misty in contempt and
award him physical custody of the minor children.
On April 11, 2016, Misty answered Mark's petition and
filed a counterpetition for contempt and modification of the
divorce decree. Misty alleged that Mark had failed to comply
with his current child-support and alimony obligations and
that a material change in circumstances had occurred that
necessitated an increase in future child-support payments.
The following month, on May 31, 2016, Misty filed a temporary
motion for emergency relief. In the temporary motion, Misty
asserted that one of the minor children needed braces and
that Mark was still behind on his child-support and alimony
payments. Misty therefore asked the chancellor to order Mark
to pay the orthodontic fees and the arrearages on his
child-support and alimony obligations.
The chancellor held an October 5, 2016 hearing on the
parties' various petitions and motions. At the hearing,
the parties introduced their financial statements and
Mark's tax returns for 2010 through 2012. Although the
parties had previously agreed that Mark's monthly gross
income amounted to $66, 666.67, Mark submitted an affidavit
stating that his average monthly income had now decreased to
$22, 363.34. On October 14, 2016, the chancellor entered an
order nunc pro tunc as of October 5, 2016, that addressed
both Mark's petition and Misty's counterpetition for
contempt and modification of the divorce decree. Based on
Mark's various allegations against Misty, the chancellor
appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the minor children
and ordered Mark to pay a $2, 500 retainer fee to the GAL
within thirty days of the order's entry. The chancellor
also bifurcated the matter to first hear the parties'
contempt issues and to reserve all issues regarding
modification until the completion of the GAL's report.
After finding that Mark failed to prove his contempt
allegations against Misty, the chancellor denied Mark's
request to hold Misty in contempt. The chancellor next found,
however, that Mark had failed to timely pay child support,
alimony, and other sums to Misty as directed by the
court's previous order. The chancellor therefore held
Mark in willful contempt and ordered him to pay Misty $80,
287.38 ($42, 485 for unpaid child support and alimony; $27,
057.38 for unpaid medical and other support; and $10, 745 for
On November 7, 2016, Misty filed another petition for
citation of contempt and alleged that Mark had failed to
comply with the chancellor's October 14, 2016 order.
Specifically, Misty argued that Mark had failed to pay the
sums owed to her under the chancellor's previous order.
The same month, on November 30, 2016, Mark filed another
petition to modify child support. Mark asserted that, under
the terms of the parties' child-support agreement, ...