OF JUDGMENT 01/29/2018
LAWRENCE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. GERALD MARION MARTIN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MATTHEW ALLEN BALDRIDGE.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JOSEPH A. FERNALD JR. JAMIE NICOLE
J. WILSON, P.J., TINDELL, McDONALD AND McCARTY, JJ.
On January 29, 2018, the Lawrence County Chancery Court
granted an irreconcilable- differences divorce to Raymond
Reynolds and Elizabeth "Kay" Reynolds. In his
findings of fact, conclusions of law, and final judgment of
divorce, the chancellor made the following determinations:
(1) Raymond was required to pay any outstanding debt on the
couple's 2012 Ford Focus; (2) Kay was awarded $4, 200, or
half, of the marital equity in the couple's former
marital home; and (3) Kay was awarded lump-sum alimony in the
amount of $19, 500. Raymond now appeals, arguing that the
chancellor's foregoing determinations were erroneous.
Finding no error, we affirm the chancellor's findings of
fact, conclusions of law, and final judgment.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Raymond and Kay were married on November 16, 2000, until
their separation on or about May 24, 2013. On September 17,
2013, Kay filed her complaint for divorce and motion for
temporary relief, and Raymond filed his answer and
counterclaim for divorce on October 3, 2013. Both parties
requested a fault-based divorce or, alternatively, an
Raymond and Kay had two children during their marriage, one
of whom died prior to the divorce proceedings. On May 20,
2014, the chancellor entered an order for temporary relief
that granted temporary joint custody of the couple's
surviving child, granted Raymond temporary use and possession
of the marital home, and enjoined both parties from
liquidating or transferring any assets during this time.
On January 4, 2015, upon a joint motion by the parties, the
chancellor entered an order withdrawing the parties'
fault-based divorce pleadings and allowing Raymond and Kay to
proceed with an irreconcilable-differences divorce. That same
day, Raymond and Kay filed a consent to divorce, wherein they
agreed to allow the chancellor to decide the following
issues: (1) child custody, (2) visitation, (3) child support,
(4) equitable distribution of marital assets, (5) obligation
to pay the remaining debt of the couple's 2012 Ford
Focus, and (6) assessment of attorney's fees, if any.
Divorce proceedings took place over nine days in 2015 and
2016. On the final day of trial, Raymond and Kay came to an
agreement as to custody and visitation of their surviving
child, leaving all remaining issues for the chancellor's
determination. On January 29, 2018, the chancellor entered
his findings of fact, conclusions of law, and final judgment
of divorce. In the final judgment, the chancellor granted
Raymond and Kay an irreconcilable-differences divorce and
made the following determinations pertinent to this appeal:
(1) Kay was awarded use, ownership, and possession of the
couple's 2012 Ford Focus; (2) Raymond was obligated to
pay all outstanding debt on the 2012 Ford Focus; (3) Kay was
awarded $19, 500 in lump-sum alimony; and (4) Kay was awarded
$4, 200 as her equitable distribution of the couple's
marital property. Aggrieved by the chancellor's
determinations and final judgment, Raymond now appeals.
We apply a limited standard of review when examining a
chancellor's decision in domestic-relations matters.
Williams v. Williams, 224 So.3d 1282, 1284 (¶5)
(Miss. Ct. App. 2017). "Chancellors are afforded wide
latitude in fashioning equitable remedies in
domestic[-]relations matters, and their decisions will not be
reversed if the findings of fact are supported by substantial
credible evidence in the record." Henderson v.
Henderson, 757 So.2d 285, 289 (¶19) (Miss. 2000).
We review "the facts of a divorce decree in a light most
favorable to the appellee," and unless the
chancellor's judgment was manifestly wrong or clearly
erroneous, or the chancellor applied an erroneous legal
standard, the judgment should stand. Fisher v.
Fisher, 771 So.2d 364, 367 (¶8) (Miss. 2000).
Specifically, we review a chancellor's judgment of
property division "to ensure that the chancellor
followed the appropriate standards and did not abuse his
discretion." Wells v. Wells, 800 So.2d
1239, 1243 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App. 2001). "Alimony
awards are [also] within the sound discretion of the
chancellor." Speed v. Speed, 757 So.2d 221, 224
(¶6) (Miss. 2000) (citing McEachern v.
McEachern, 605 So.2d 809, 814 (Miss. 1992)).
On appeal, Raymond takes issue with the chancellor's
distribution of the couple's marital assets and marital
debt and his decision to award alimony. "Mississippi law
requires equitable distribution of the marital estate during
divorce proceedings." Griner v. Griner, 235
So.3d 177, 184 (¶9) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017) (citing
Owen v. Owen, 798 So.2d 394, 399 (¶14) (Miss.
2001)). "When the parties request that the chancellor
resolve the issue of property division, the chancellor must
do three things: (1) classify the parties' assets as
marital or separate, (2) value those assets, and (3) divide
the marital assets equitably." Burnham v.
Burnham, 185 So.3d 358, 361 (¶12) (Miss. Ct. App.
2015) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Before dividing the marital property, the chancellor must
employ the factors set forth in Ferguson v.
Ferguson, 639 So.2d 921 (Miss. 1994), keeping in mind
the amount of nonmarital property belonging to the parties.
See Burnham, 185 So.3d at 361 (¶¶12-13).
The Ferguson factors are:
(1) contribution to the accumulation of ...