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Rodrigue v. Rodrigue

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 18, 2018

DEIDI RODRIGUE APPELLANT
v.
MITCHELL RODRIGUE APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/04/2017

          FORREST COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. M. RONALD DOLEAC TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: MAURA DELANEY MCLAUGHLIN LEE PARTEE GORE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JOHN D. SMALLWOOD THOMAS T. BUCHANAN

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

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. On August 31, 2012, the Forrest County Chancery Court granted Mitch and Deidi Rodrigue a divorce. Following Deidi's timely appeal, this Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the chancellor's judgment. Rodrigue v. Rodrigue, 172 So.3d 1176, 1178 (¶1) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014) (Rodrigue I). After conducting a second trial on remand, the chancellor entered an amended opinion and final judgment on January 4, 2017. On appeal from the chancellor's amended opinion and final judgment, Deidi argues the chancellor erred (1) in his equitable distribution of the marital estate, (2) in his determination of alimony, (3) by not awarding Deidi attorney's fees, and (4) by not awarding Deidi the costs she incurred in pursuing the first appeal.

         ¶2. In Rodrigue I, we assessed all costs of the appeal to Mitch. Id. at 1190 (¶54). On remand, Deidi introduced into evidence a bill showing she incurred $1, 543.40 in pursuing the appeal. Because the chancellor erroneously denied these costs, we reverse and render that part of the chancellor's judgment and order Mitch to pay the costs associated with the first appeal. As to the remaining issues regarding the equitable distribution of the marital home, the alimony award, and the denial of Deidi's attorney's fees, we find no error. We therefore affirm in part and reverse and render in part the chancellor's judgment.

         FACTS

         ¶3. Deidi and Mitch separated on July 15, 2010, after twenty-one years of marriage. On November 4, 2011, the chancellor entered a temporary order on the issues of custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. Pursuant to the chancellor's temporary order, Mitch received responsibility for paying the marital debt associated with the marital home, including the mortgage, interest, and taxes.

         ¶4. On August 31, 2012, the chancellor entered a final judgment that granted Deidi a divorce on the ground of uncondoned adultery and awarded her custody of the parties' two minor children.[1] The chancellor ordered Mitch to pay $1, 112.66 in monthly child support. With regard to alimony, the chancellor stated:

[T]he [c]ourt finds the payment by Mitch of Deidi's car note on the Honda Pilot ($329.95 per month with a balance of $13, 562.41 as presented at trial), of which she will have exclusive use, ownership[, ] and possession, to be an appropriate amount of lump[-]sum alimony paid over time. Mitch is obligated to make at least the minimum payments due on the loan until the loan is paid in full. If he chooses to pay the loan off at an accelerated rate, and thus satisfy the obligation in a shorter amount of time and by paying less interest, he will be deemed to have also satisfied his obligation to Deidi as to alimony.

         ¶5. In dividing the parties' marital property, the chancellor ordered them to sell the marital home and divide the equity. The chancellor granted Deidi use and possession of the marital home and ordered Mitch to pay the mortgage, including taxes and insurance, for one year or until the sale, whichever occurred first.[2] The chancellor further ordered that Mitch "be allowed to claim the interest paid on the home mortgage as a deduction on his tax return until the home [was] sold." From the sale proceeds, the chancellor granted Mitch priority for the reimbursement of the mortgage payments he made between the entry of the November 4, 2011 temporary order and the entry of the August 31, 2012 final judgment.

         ¶6. Following the entry of the chancellor's judgment, Deidi filed an unsuccessful posttrial motion. Aggrieved, she appealed. In Rodrigue I, this Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the chancellor's judgment. Id. at 1178 (¶1). In remanding the case for further proceedings on the issues of equitable division and alimony, we stated the chancellor could also revisit the issues related to child support, attorney's fees, private-school tuition, college education, and life insurance. Id. at 1189 (¶¶47, 50).

         ¶7. In reversing and remanding the chancellor's judgment as to the marital home, this Court stated:

[I]t appears that the chancellor intended for Mitch to receive the mortgage- interest deduction on his tax return. However, there is nothing in the judgment that would indicate that the chancellor viewed this as alimony or that the chancellor intended for Deidi to incur taxable income for the payment as alimony. The chancellor did not designate the mortgage payment as alimony.
Nevertheless, we are compelled to find that the chancellor failed to "consider the estimated amount of income taxes the respective parties must pay on their incomes when determining the provisions of a divorce agreement." Ivison[ v. Ivison], 762 So.2d [329, ] 337 (ΒΆ29) [(Miss. 2000)]. We therefore reverse the chancellor's judgment as to the marital home and remand this matter for the chancellor to ...

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