OF JUDGMENT: 03/16/2018
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. M. RONALD DOLEAC TRIAL JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ANNA MARIE CHANDLER
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: BRANDON LARUE BROOKS
CARLTON, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND McCARTY, JJ.
On or about January 26, 2017, Cheryl Burrell filed a
"Complaint for Divorce and Temporary Relief" in the
Chancery Court of Lamar County; the chancellor entered a
temporary order on May 16, 2017. Geoffrey Burrell filed his
initial answer to Cheryl's complaint on February 28,
2018, and a subsequent amended answer on March 1, 2018. The
matter proceeded to trial on March 7, 2018, and the court
entered an opinion and final judgment granting an unequal
distribution of the marital assets favoring Cheryl on March
16, 2018; Cheryl was granted use and possession of the
marital home pending sale, half of Geoffrey's retirement
account, reimbursement for dissipated marital funds, and the
majority of the couple's marital assets. Geoffrey was
ordered to assume sole liability for the marital debts,
including the ongoing mortgage note, but, the court found
that Cheryl was not entitled to spousal or child support.
Four days later, Cheryl moved for reconsideration of the
court's final judgment and argued that court's
failure to award her the marital home and support payments
for the benefit of their disabled son was inequitable.
Geoffrey filed a corresponding response on April 30, 2018.
The court held a hearing on May 1, 2018, and entered an order
denying Cheryl's motion on May 23, 2018. Aggrieved,
Cheryl now appeals.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Cheryl filed her complaint for divorce and temporary relief
against Geoffrey on January 26, 2017, after twenty-six years
of marriage. Cheryl sought a divorce on the grounds of
habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, and,
alternatively, irreconcilable differences. The parties have
one child, John, who is an adult. Cheryl alleged in her
complaint that John was disabled. Cheryl requested the court
to award her child support for John and ownership of all
household furnishings. She asked the court to require
Geoffrey to replace all destroyed, damaged, or worn furniture
and to be responsible for the repayment of all marital debt.
Cheryl also sought sole and exclusive use of the marital
home; an injunction against Geoffrey from interfering with
the peaceful enjoyment of her life; and "general
relief." Notably, Cheryl did not request alimony or
On May 16, 2017, the court entered a temporary order,
granting Cheryl temporary possession and use of the marital
residence. Geoffrey was directed to continue to pay the
mortgage note and utility costs for the marital residence and
temporary spousal support to Cheryl. The order also prohibited
the parties from disposing of any assets without a court
Geoffrey filed his answer and a counter-complaint for divorce
and other relief on February 2, 2018, requesting an equitable
distribution of the marital estate. He amended the filing on
March 1, 2018, but requested the same relief.
Geoffrey stipulated to his adulterous conduct as the ground
for divorce and admitted on the record that he wired his
mistress "a few hundred dollars" after the death of
her husband. The issues at trial were limited to custody and
support of John; replacement, use, and ownership of household
furnishings and the marital residence; payment of marital
debt; and equitable distribution of the marital estate.
At trial, Geoffrey testified that several years earlier he
and Cheryl filed bankruptcy because despite his working two
jobs, they could not overcome their debt. After completing
the bankruptcy, the Burrells only remaining debt was the
mortgage on the marital residence. Geoffrey testified that
since his and Cheryl's separation, he had moved in with
his parents in Slidell, Louisiana, and was commuting
eighty-five miles (one-way) to work at Forrest General
Hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Geoffrey denied causing
damage to any furniture in the marital house; John testified
to the same, and Cheryl did not produce any evidence of the
Cheryl disclosed that she received approximately $100, 000 as
an inheritance from her father but testified that she had
spent a large portion of the funds on alternative medicines
and other miscellaneous home expenses. She also admitted
that she sold $20, 000 worth of jewelry, in violation of the
court's temporary order, to supplement her income after
expending all of the money from her
inheritance. Cheryl testified that during the marriage,
she stayed home due to her fibromyalgia and to take care of
John, who is permanently disabled and requires her perpetual
care. However, she also testified that she had held a variety
of jobs over the years. Geoffrey testified that John would
sleep all day and stay up all night. He explained that Cheryl
would sometimes work day jobs or run errands and was able to
leave John at home alone without issue.
As income, John receives monthly benefits from the Social
Security Administration. At the time of trial, John was not
under the administration of a guardianship or
conservatorship, and Cheryl testified that he had his own
checking account and that "no one else could have their
name on it except for him." Prior to his parent's
separation, John paid a monthly amount of $450 to his parents
for rent, food, and utilities; following the separation, he
continued to make the payments to Cheryl.
After considering the evidence, the court divided the marital
estate as follows: Geoffrey was ordered to pay the mortgage
note on the marital residence until the property sold while
Cheryl maintained exclusive use. Any remaining equity after
the home sold was to be divided equally between the parties.
The court noted that Cheryl failed to request permanent
alimony or spousal support in any of her pleadings. The court
further explained that ...