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Collado v. Collado

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 8, 2019

JERRY CHRISTOPHER COLLADO APPELLANT
v.
JENNIFER JORDAN COLLADO (TYNDALL) APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/11/2017

          RANKIN COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. JOHN C. McLAURIN JR. JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: HEATHER MARIE ABY

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: GARY LEE WILLIAMS

          BEFORE J. WILSON, P.J., TINDELL AND LAWRENCE, JJ.

          J. WILSON, P.J.

         ¶1. Chris Collado appeals an order requiring him to continue to pay private school tuition for all four of his minor children. The court ordered Chris to continue to pay tuition even though his child custody and property settlement agreement, which was incorporated as part of the court's judgment of divorce, expressly provides that he is required to pay for private school only so long as he and his ex-wife, Jennifer, "jointly agree for the children to be enrolled in private school." We reverse and render the chancery court's order because it is contrary to the terms of the divorce judgment and because Jennifer did not prove any material, unforeseeable change in circumstances.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. In May 2016, Jennifer and Chris Collado were granted an irreconcilable differences divorce. The chancery court approved the parties' child custody and property settlement agreement and incorporated the agreement as part of the divorce decree. The agreement granted Jennifer custody of the parties' four children, required Chris to pay child support, and provided as follows regarding the children's private school tuition:

Husband agrees to continue to pay for the minor children's private school education, so long as the parties jointly agree for the children to be enrolled in private school, including tuition and registration fees, continuing through each child obtaining a high school diploma. . . .

         ¶3. In March 2017, Jennifer filed a petition to modify the divorce judgment. She alleged that Chris had "threatened to refuse to pay for the [private school education] of one or two of the minor children." She accused Chris of "gamesmanship" and alleged that his threats were an attempt to force her to pay for the private school education of two of their children. She claimed that it was not in the children's best interests to attend the Pearl or Northwest Rankin public schools. She also claimed that "it would be nearly impossible" for her to have children at two different schools. She asked the court to order Chris to continue to pay for the private school education of all four children.

         ¶4. At a subsequent hearing, Chris testified that, at the time of the divorce, he agreed to pay for the children's tuition because he intended to do so for as long as he could. However, he testified that he could no longer afford to pay for all four children to go to private school. He testified that his income was somewhat unpredictable because it depended in part on the availability of overtime. He also claimed that his expenses had increased and that it was no longer practicable for him to pay for all four children to attend private school. Chris felt that his older two children (who were sixteen years old and almost fourteen years old at the time of the hearing) should be allowed to continue to attend their private school through graduation. However, Chris believed that his younger two children (ages twelve and eight) could easily adapt to the Pearl or Northwest Rankin public schools.

         ¶5. The chancellor subsequently ordered Chris to continue paying for the private school education of all four children, ruling as follows:

Park Place Christian Academy is where the minor children go to school and have been going to school. During their attendance, Chris has been paying their tuition. Chris contends that he is not financially able to afford the children's tuition. The figures don't agree with that contention. In the past year, Chris has bought a house, which will result in mortgage interest deduction and [a] higher tax refund . . . . The Court finds that Chris is not burdened by the tuition and ...

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