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Speights v. Speights

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 18, 2018

EDWARD WILLIAM SPEIGHTS III APPELLANT
v.
KIMBERLY DANIELS SPEIGHTS APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/04/2016

          JEFFERSON DAVIS COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. GERALD MARION MARTIN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: RENEE M. PORTER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: S. CHRISTOPHER FARRIS

         EN BANC.

          BARNES, J.

         ¶1. Edward Speights ("Trey") appeals the judgment of the Chancery Court of Jefferson Davis County, which granted Kimberly Speights a divorce on the ground of habitual drunkenness and divided the marital property. On appeal, Trey claims the chancery court erred in failing to make findings of fact and conclusions of law on the divorce, as well as allowing Trey's parents "to act as his de facto attorneys" for the division of marital assets at trial, when Trey failed to appear. Trey also argues the chancery court erred in failing to order the parties to submit a Uniform Chancery Court Rule 8.05 financial disclosure form. Regarding the property division, Trey contends the chancery court failed to make a distinction between marital and non-marital property, and failed to support its decision with findings of fact under the Ferguson[1] factors.

         ¶2. We affirm the grant of divorce on the ground of habitual drunkenness. We also find no error in the role of Trey's parents at the trial. However, we reverse and remand on the issue of property division, in order for the chancery court to make findings of fact under Ferguson, and for the parties to file Rule 8.05 financial disclosure forms to assist and support the chancellor in making those findings.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. Kimberly and Trey married in 2004 and separated in December 2015. No children were born of the marriage. In January 2016, Kimberly filed for divorce from Trey on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, excessive drug use, habitual drunkenness, or, alternatively, irreconcilable differences. Kimberly requested Trey continue to be restrained from threatening and harassing her under an order similar to an already-issued Justice Court Domestic Abuse Protective Order. The complaint was properly served on Trey on January 21, 2016, along with a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 81 summons to appear at the hearing on February 3, 2016.

         ¶4. On that date, the trial was continued until March 2, 2016. The protection order was extended as well. On February 19, 2016, Trey answered the complaint through counsel. The March 2 trial was continued again. On June 28, 2016, another summons was issued for Trey to appear at the trial, which was reset for August 8, 2016. Trey was served with the summons on July 7, 2016. Trey's attorney moved to withdraw because Trey "failed to obey the requests of [his] attorney." The motion to withdraw was granted.

         ¶5. On August 8, 2016, an order was entered continuing the trial until September 21, 2016.[2] Trey was properly served with a summons on September 11, 2016, but he failed to appear at the trial.[3] Testifying at the trial on September 21 were Kimberly and Trey's parents. At the end of the witness's testimony, the chancellor granted Kimberly a divorce on the ground of habitual drunkenness without further comment.

         ¶6. On October 4, 2016, the judgment of divorce was entered, as well as a qualified- domestic-relations order (QDRO), dividing Trey's retirement benefits from his roofing business. The chancellor explained that he distributed the marital property based upon lists presented to the court as exhibits that were signed by Trey's parents, [4] but the record is void of analysis of the Ferguson factors. Kimberly was awarded $52, 500 of Trey's employee pension plan. Trey was also ordered to pay $17, 259.87 in credit-card debt and permanently restrained from having any contact with Kimberly.

         ¶7. On October 24, 2016, an appearance form was entered for Trey's new attorney, along with a motion for an extension to appeal and relief under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 59. The extension was granted, and Trey timely filed his notice of appeal.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶8. The scope of review in domestic cases is limited to the substantial evidence rule. Jundoosing v. Jundoosing, 826 So.2d 85, 88 (¶10) (Miss. 2002). The findings of the chancellor will be upheld unless those findings were manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous. Id. However, this Court will not hesitate to reverse if the chancellor's decision is manifestly wrong, or ...


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