TAMMY H. RATLIFF A/K/A TAMMY HUBBARD APPELLANT
DENNIS L. RATLIFF APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 06/13/2017
YALOBUSHA COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT
HON. VICKI B. DANIELS JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ALEXANDER J. SIMPSON III
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: A. E. (RUSTY) HARLOW JR. KATHI
GRIFFIS, P.J., FAIR AND TINDELL, JJ.
On December 1, 2009, the Yalobusha County Chancery Court
granted Tammy Hubbard and Dennis Ratliff a divorce. In March
2016, Hubbard filed a contempt action against Ratliff.
Ratliff counterclaimed for contempt; emancipation of the
couple's minor child, SDR; and termination of child support.
After conducting a trial in May 2016, the chancery court
entered a judgment on June 13, 2017, finding that neither
party should be held in contempt, that SDR was emancipated as
of August 1, 2016, and that Hubbard must repay the
child-support sums Ratliff paid after SDR's emancipation.
Although the chancery court set SDR's emancipation date
at August 1, 2016, there is insufficient record evidence to
support her emancipation on this date. Based on Hubbard's
testimony, the chancery court understood that SDR took some
summer classes after graduating high school. The start and
end dates of these classes do not appear in the record.
Whether SDR was enrolled as a full-time or part-time student
is not apparent. What is clear from the record is that SDR
joined the military in November 2016.
Emancipation, by statute, terminates the duty of support and
occurs when the child "[j]oins the military and serves
on a full-time basis . . . ." Miss. Code Ann. §
93-11-65(8)(a)(iii) (Rev. 2013). Therefore, Ratliff's
child-support obligation terminated upon the minor
child's emancipation in November 2016. Because the
chancery court erroneously set SDR's emancipation date at
August 1, 2016, we reverse the chancery court's judgment
on that issue and render November 2016 as the effective
emancipation date. In setting the emancipation date as
November 2016, we must also modify those portions of the
chancery court's judgment awarding repayment of the sums
Ratliff paid. We affirm the chancery court's judgment in
all other respects.
In December 2009, the chancery court granted Hubbard and
Ratliff a divorce on the ground of irreconcilable
differences. Pursuant to the property-settlement and
child-custody agreement, Hubbard was awarded sole legal and
physical custody of SDR. The chancery court awarded
visitation to Ratliff and ordered him to pay child support,
maintain a life-insurance policy with SDR as the beneficiary,
provide health insurance for SDR, and pay one-half of
SDR's medical expenses not covered by insurance.
In March 2016, Hubbard filed a petition for contempt alleging
that: Ratliff owed past- due child support; Ratliff failed to
provide proof of a life-insurance policy with SDR as the
beneficiary; Ratliff took SDR to unapproved places; and
Ratliff refused to pay one-half of certain medical and
educational expenses. SDR was eighteen and a senior in high
school at the time Hubbard filed her contempt petition.
Ratliff answered and filed a counter-petition alleging, among
other things, that: Hubbard should be held in contempt of
court for failing to comply with the visitation schedule, the
court should declare SDR emancipated based upon her age and
her discontinuation of school, and child support should be
terminated. SDR graduated from high school in the spring of
2016. She then took some summer courses at her local
community college. In November 2016, SDR was sworn into the
United States Air Force.
The standard of review in a domestic-relations matter is
whether the chancery court's ruling was manifestly wrong
or clearly erroneous, or if the chancery court applied the
wrong legal standard. McKnight v. McKnight, 951
So.2d 594, 595-96 (¶5) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). "The
factual findings of the [chancery court] are reviewed to
determine if the award is supported by substantial evidence
or whether the decision reflects manifest error."
Jackson v. Jackson, 114 So.3d 768, 773 (¶11)