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Britt v. Holloway

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 15, 2019

KIMBERLY N. BRITT APPELLANT
v.
DEBORAH CARROLL HOLLOWAY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF THE MINOR CHILD, C.B. APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/08/2017

          LEE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. C. MICHAEL MALSKI TRIAL JUDGE:

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CHEREKA LAVO WITHERSPOON

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: CHRISTOPHER G. EVANS

         EN BANC.

          BARNES, P.J.,

         ¶1. Kimberly Britt appeals the Lee County Chancery Court's order awarding custody of her minor child to Deborah Holloway, Britt's mother and the child's maternal grandmother. Alternatively, Britt argues that she should have been awarded unsupervised visitation with the child. As the chancery court failed to rule on the issue of child support in its order, we find the order was not an appealable final judgment. Therefore, the appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Britt gave birth to a son, C.B., in May 2016.[1] Britt and the child's father, Jessie Pitts, were never married, and she lived with her mother, Holloway, for a couple of weeks after the birth. When C.B. was approximately six weeks old, Britt moved into a vacant home owned by her great-grandmother.

         ¶3. On August 9, 2016, Holloway petitioned the chancery court for custody of C.B., with Pitts joining in the petition. Holloway alleged that Britt was unfit to have custody due to a history of mental illness and drug abuse, a felony drug conviction for the sale of narcotics, a history of sexual relationships with multiple men, sickness from Hepatitis C, and, in general, a lack of basic maternal instinct. Britt had previously relinquished her parental rights to her two other children, and Holloway adopted them.[2]

         ¶4. A temporary hearing was held August 10, and the chancery court granted Holloway temporary custody. The matter was set for review on August 24. Britt and Holloway entered into an agreed order allowing Holloway to retain temporary custody, and Britt was granted supervised visitation twice a week for two hours. Originally, Britt's maternal grandmother, Linda Shirley, supervised the visits but was reluctant to continue because Britt spoke profanely about Holloway; so the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services office (DCPS) in Tupelo assigned a caseworker supervise the visits. A guardian ad litem was also appointed.

         ¶5. A trial on the merits was held February 6 and March 30, 2017. Shirley testified that when Britt was a child, she would fight with other kids and that Britt had gotten into trouble with law enforcement as a juvenile. Britt would also "get drunk and run off," and she had threatened to kill herself "[m]any times." Within the last year, Shirley also heard Britt threaten to kill Holloway if she lost custody.

         ¶6. Holloway testified that Britt suffered from mental issues and demonstrated a propensity for mean behavior even as a child, noting that Britt intentionally broke the legs of the family's pet rabbits and had threatened other children at school. She also stated that, since age nine, Britt was treated at various times throughout her childhood at a mental health facility. Both Shirley and Holloway testified that a few years ago, Britt admitted that she had beaten a girl with a flashlight and her fists, while her friends held the girl down. Holloway also testified that Britt smoked marijuana while pregnant with C.B. and was convicted of selling narcotics years earlier.

         ¶7. Pitts, who admitted during testimony that he had a six-count indictment pending against him for sexual battery of a minor, lived with Britt for a short period after C.B.'s birth and was still seeing Britt on occasion. Pitts claimed that Britt cut herself on her legs because she was upset over the custody issue, and he acknowledged that he heard Britt say she wished Holloway was dead. Regarding Britt's capabilities as a parent, he said: "I just have some ...


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