Baumann v. Baumann, NO. 2019-CA-01216-COA

CourtCourt of Appeals of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtGREENLEE, J., FOR THE COURT
Citation304 So.3d 175
Parties Jared Scott BAUMANN, Appellant v. Angie Potter BAUMANN, Appellee
Docket NumberNO. 2019-CA-01216-COA
Decision Date29 September 2020

304 So.3d 175

Jared Scott BAUMANN, Appellant
v.
Angie Potter BAUMANN, Appellee

NO. 2019-CA-01216-COA

Court of Appeals of Mississippi.

September 29, 2020


ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DEBRA LYNN ALLEN

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: WILLIAM R. WRIGHT, Ridgeland, AMANDA JANE PROCTOR

BEFORE BARNES, C.J., GREENLEE AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

GREENLEE, J., FOR THE COURT:

¶1. Jared Baumann appeals from the judgment of the Hinds County Chancery Court, claiming the chancellor erred by failing to address each Albright factor, qualifying Angie's expert, ordering back child support, and denying his attorney's fees. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

304 So.3d 178

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. Jared and Angie Baumann were married on March 20, 2009. They had two children, I.B. and M.B.G., before they separated.1 Jared filed for divorce from Angie on the statutory ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment or, alternatively, on the ground of irreconcilable differences. He also filed for a temporary restraining order and injunction, asking the chancery court to order Angie to return the children to Mississippi. At the time of their separation, Angie and the children were staying with Angie's parents in Utah. The chancery court granted Jared's temporary restraining order and ordered Angie to return the children to Mississippi within seventy-two hours.

¶3. Instead of following the court's orders, and while their divorce was pending in Mississippi, Angie filed for divorce in Utah. She alleged that Jared had sexually abused their eldest daughter, I.B. Angie consulted with a clinical social worker, who determined that I.B. displayed characteristics of a sexually abused child.

¶4. On June 6, 2014, Jared filed a motion for contempt due to Angie's refusal to return the children to Mississippi. Shortly after, on June 11, 2014, Angie filed her answer and defenses to Jared's divorce complaint in Mississippi. One of Angie's defenses was that the Mississippi court lacked subject matter jurisdiction based on the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), Miss. Code Ann. § 93-27-201 (Rev. 2013). Eight months later, after various hearings, the two courts came to a decision resulting in the dismissal of the Utah divorce pleadings. Based on this agreement, the Utah court also dismissed the Utah protective order. The Utah court found that all allegations should be referred to the Mississippi Department of Human Services. Although no charges were brought against Jared in Mississippi, the chancellor agreed with the Utah judge. She ordered the Department of Human Services to investigate all allegations of sexual abuse.

¶5. In early December 2014, Jared filed a second motion for contempt and a temporary restraining order. Specifically, on December 23, 2014, Jared filed a motion requesting an immediate investigation into the false charges of child abuse. He also asked that Angie pay for any attorney's fees used to defend the charge. At that time, the chancellor appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL).

¶6. In March 2015, the GAL gave her initial recommendations as to temporary custody. She recommended that the children temporarily remain with Angie because the sexual abuse accusations were still pending.

¶7. At trial, Angie presented Karen Fairchild as her expert witness. Fairchild had meet with I.B. several times and opined that she demonstrated signs of sexual abuse. Jared continued to deny any abuse, and investigations by both the appointed GAL and Department of Human Services failed to substantiate the allegations.

¶8. On March 16, 2016, the chancellor granted Jared and Angie's divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences. Angie sought sole physical and legal custody of their children with restricted or supervised visitation for Jared. The chancellor accepted the GAL's extensive report and recommendation and awarded physical custody of I.B. and M.B.G. to Angie. However, the chancellor awarded unsupervised visitation to Jared. Jared was also ordered to pay arrearage for child support from January

304 So.3d 179

2015. The chancellor furthered order both parties to pay their respective attorney's fees.

¶9. Jared filed a motion for a new trial or, alternatively, to amend the judgment. The chancellor denied a new trial but amended the judgment to reflect that child-support arrearage should be paid starting from April 2015 instead of January 2015. Aggrieved by the chancellor's decision, Jared appeals.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶10. This Court will not reverse a chancery court's decision unless the chancellor abused her discretion, was manifestly in error, or applied an erroneous legal standard. Pevey v. Pevey , 270 So. 3d 250, 257 (¶18) (Miss. Ct. App. 2018). The evidence cannot be re-weighed in a child custody case, and the Court must defer to the chancellor's finding. Harden v. Scarborough , 240 So. 3d 1246, 1251 (¶9) (Miss. Ct. App. 2018). As long as a chancellor's findings of fact are supported by substantial credible evidence, they will remain undisturbed on appeal. Pevey , 270 So. 3d at 257.

DISCUSSION

I. Whether the chancellor properly determined child custody.

¶11. Jared claims the chancellor erred by granting custody of his minor children to his ex-wife, Angie. He contends that the court's determination should be vacated because the chancellor adopted the GAL's recommendation and did not address each Albright2 factor. He also argues that the chancellor failed to give enough weight to the harm he and his daughter, I.B., suffered because of Angie's abuse allegations.

¶12. It is well established that the child's best interest and welfare are the guiding points in child custody cases. Albright , 437 So. 2d at 1005 ("[T]he polestar consideration ... is the best interest and welfare of the child."). To meet these goals, the Court evaluates the following factors introduced in Albright : (1) the age, sex, and health of the child; (2) "the continuity of care prior to the separation"; (3) the parenting skills of each parent; (4) "the willingness and capacity to provide primary child care"; (5) "the employment of the parents and the responsibilities of that employment"; (6) the "physical and mental health and age of the parents"; (7) "emotional ties of the parent and the child"; (8) the moral fitness of each parent; (9) "the home, school, and community record of the child"; (10) the preference of the child; (11) the stability of the home environment; and (12) "other factors relevant to the parent-child relationship." Id .

¶13. "The Albright factors are intended to ensure that the chancellor follows a process that considers all facts relevant to the child's best interest." Vassar v. Vassar , 228 So. 3d 367, 375 (¶27) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). Although all the factors are essential, the chancellor has the ultimate discretion to weigh the evidence the way she sees fit. Johnson v. Gray , 859 So. 2d 1006, 1013-14 (¶36) (Miss. 2003). However, the chancellor must explain her rationale. If a chancellor fails to articulate the reasoning behind her findings, it is reversible error. Davidson v. Coit , 899 So. 2d 904, 911 (¶18) (Miss. Ct. App. 2005).

¶14. We give deference to the weight that the chancellor assigns to each Albright factor. Smith v. Smith , 206 So. 3d 502, 513 (¶24) (Miss. 2016). This Court cannot re-weigh the evidence and must defer to the chancellor's findings of facts,

304 So.3d 180

including her decision regarding the evidence's weight and credibility. Hall v. Hall , 134 So. 3d 822, 828 (¶21) (Miss. Ct. App. 2014) ; accord Alderson v. Alderson , 810 So. 2d 627, 629 (¶4) (Miss. Ct. App. 2002). An appellate court may not substitute its judgment for the chancellor's. Brewer v. Brewer , 919 So. 2d 135, 141 (¶23) (Miss. Ct. App. 2005). Instead, we must decide if substantial evidence supports the ruling. Id.

¶15. In Barbaro , we upheld a chancellor's judgment even though he did not give reasons for disagreeing with certain parts of the GAL's recommendation. Barbaro v. Smith , 282 So. 3d 578, 600 (¶101) (Miss. Ct. App. 2019). Barbaro alleged that Smith, her ex-husband, had allowed their eighteen-month-old child to consume drugs. Id . at 583 (¶1). She submitted a false drug test and set up a scheme to have Smith arrested for drug trafficking. Id . at 588 (¶35). Smith denied that he had ever exposed their son to drugs. Id . at 583 (¶1). Accordingly, the chancellor appointed a GAL to investigate the allegations. Id . The investigation concluded that Barbaro altered the drug test and planted the drugs that led to Smith's arrest. Id . at (¶¶1-2).

¶16. Based on the investigation, the GAL recommended that custody be given to Smith. Id . at (¶2). The chancellor agreed and granted sole physical and legal custody to Smith and gave Barbaro visitation. Id .

¶17. On appeal, Barbaro argued that the chancellor failed to detail why he disagreed with the GAL's report. Id . at 600 (¶99). Although the chancellor expressed that he "disagreed with the...

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3 practice notes
  • Wooten v. Simmons Wooten, 2020-CA-00353-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 18 Enero 2022
    ...to ensure that the chancellor follows a process that considers all facts relevant to the child's best interest." Baumann v. Baumann, 304 So.3d 175, 179 (¶13) (Miss. Ct. App. 2020) (citing Vassar v. Vassar, 228 So.3d 367, 375 (¶27) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017)). However, "an Albright analysis is no......
  • Stuckey v. Stuckey, 2020-CA-00848-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 21 Junio 2022
    ...to ensure that the chancellor follows a process that considers all facts relevant to the child's best interest." Baumann v. Baumann , 304 So. 3d 175, 179 (¶13) (Miss. Ct. App. 2020) (citing Vassar v. Vassar , 228 So. 3d 367, 375 (¶27) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017) ). However, "an Albright analysis ......
  • Wooten v. Wooten, 2020-CA-00353-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 18 Enero 2022
    ...to ensure that the chancellor follows a process that considers all facts relevant to the child's best interest." Baumann v. Baumann , 304 So. 3d 175, 179 (¶13) (Miss. Ct. App. 2020) (citing Vassar v. Vassar , 228 So. 3d 367, 375 (¶27) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017) ). However, "an Albright analysis ......
2 cases
  • Wooten v. Simmons Wooten, 2020-CA-00353-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 18 Enero 2022
    ...to ensure that the chancellor follows a process that considers all facts relevant to the child's best interest." Baumann v. Baumann, 304 So.3d 175, 179 (¶13) (Miss. Ct. App. 2020) (citing Vassar v. Vassar, 228 So.3d 367, 375 (¶27) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017)). However, "an Albright analysis is no......
  • Wooten v. Wooten, 2020-CA-00353-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 18 Enero 2022
    ...to ensure that the chancellor follows a process that considers all facts relevant to the child's best interest." Baumann v. Baumann , 304 So. 3d 175, 179 (¶13) (Miss. Ct. App. 2020) (citing Vassar v. Vassar , 228 So. 3d 367, 375 (¶27) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017) ). However, "an Albright analysis ......

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