Heigle v. Heigle, No. 1999-CA-00007-SCT.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Citation771 So.2d 341
Decision Date02 November 2000
PartiesRoger HEIGLE v. Jo Ann HEIGLE.
Docket NumberNo. 1999-CA-00007-SCT.

771 So.2d 341

Roger HEIGLE
v.
Jo Ann HEIGLE

No. 1999-CA-00007-SCT.

Supreme Court of Mississippi.

November 2, 2000.


771 So.2d 343
Robert S. Murphree, Jackson, Attorney for Appellant

John H. Daniels, III, Greenville, Attorney for Appellee.

EN BANC.

PITTMAN, Presiding Justice, for the Court:

STATEMENT OF THE CASE AND MATERIAL FACTS

¶ 1. Roger Heigle ("Roger") and Jo Ann Heigle ("Jo Ann") were granted a divorce on December 1, 1992. Roger appealed the chancellor's order to this Court on December 28, 1992. This Court vacated the judgment on both the appeal and cross-appeal and remanded with instructions to the lower court that all issues, other than the issue of the granting of the divorce, should be stayed until the conclusion of the bankruptcy proceedings. Heigle v. Heigle, 654 So.2d 895, 898 (Miss.1995)("Heigle I").

¶ 2. Jo Ann moved for summary judgment on October 6, 1997. The trial court partially granted Jo Ann's motion, ruling that as a matter of law and fact, Jo Ann was entitled to equitable distribution of the marital assets.

¶ 3. In January, 1998, Jo Ann filed a motion with the trial court, asking that an expert be appointed to appraise the marital estate as of 1992. Roger opposed the motion and stated that his counsel could not be present for the hearing on the matter. Regardless, the court heard the motion without the presence of Roger's counsel. At the hearing, the court appointed an expert, a local accountant, to value the marital estate.

¶ 4. The expert failed to have the required report ready for court until December of 1998. Roger's counsel repeatedly tried to contact the expert to obtain a copy of his report, only to be told by the expert that he would have to talk to the chancellor before giving Roger's counsel any information.

¶ 5. Trial on this matter was held on December 17, 1998. At this time, the bankruptcy regarding Heigle Farms had been settled. The chancellor issued a bench ruling where he valued Heigle Farms at $900,000, of which $225,000 constituted Roger's interest. The chancellor then placed a $14,000 value on a life insurance policy owned by Roger and valued the marital residence at $48,150. Jo Ann was awarded 40% of the marital estate or $114,860. The chancellor went through a series of credits and debits to arrive at a final figure of $115,060. Roger was ordered to pay $10,000 of Jo Ann's attorney's fees as well as $3,000 in expert fees.

¶ 6. The chancellor set a supersedeas appeal bond for three times the judgment amount, in direct contravention to M.R.A.P. 8, which calls for a supersedeas appeal bond of 125% of the judgment. Roger filed a motion with this Court to reverse the chancellor's order requiring the exorbitant bond. Such order was granted by this Court. On remand, the chancellor then set the bond at 125%. Roger then appealed the final judgment to this Court.

STATEMENT OF ISSUES
I. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN GRANTING JO ANN'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT REGARDING EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION AND RULING JO ANN WAS ENTITLED TO EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION PRIOR TO THE TRIAL OF THE MATTER.
II. WHETHER THE RULING ISSUED BY THE LOWER COURT HAS SUFFICIENT FACTUAL SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT TO ALLOW THIS COURT TO CONDUCT A MEANINGFUL APPELLATE REVIEW OF THE BASIS FOR THE LOWER COURT'S RULING IN LIGHT OF THE LOWER COURT'S
771 So.2d 344
FAILURE TO DISCUSS THE FERGUSON FACTORS.
III. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN APPOINTING A COURT APPOINTED EXPERT TO PREPARE VALUATIONS IN THIS MATTER.
IV. WHETHER THE COURT ERRED IN VALUING THE MARITAL ESTATE AS OF 1998 INSTEAD OF THE TIME OF THE DIVORCE IN 1992.
V. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN EXCLUDING PARTNERSHIP LIABILITIES ON NOTES SIGNED BOTH BY THE PARTNERSHIP AND ROGER IN DETERMINING THE VALUE OF THE PARTNERSHIP AND ROGER'S LIABILITIES.
VI. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN THE WAY IT HANDLED ALL THE ISSUES INVOLVING THE HOUSE THE PARTIES LIVED IN DURING THEIR MARRIAGE.
VII. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN MAKING ROGER PAY PART OF JO ANN'S ATTORNEYS FEES AS WELL AS THE EXPERT FEES.
VIII. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN REQUIRING THE ATTORNEY FOR ROGER TO TESTIFY AS A WITNESS FOR JO ANN.
IX. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN RELYING UPON ITS OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND MATTERS NOT IN THE RECORD IN ITS RULING.
X. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT'S TREATMENT OF ROGER EVIDENCES BIAS AND PREJUDICE.
XI. WHETHER THE AWARD MADE BY THE LOWER COURT IS EQUITABLE AND JUST GIVEN THE FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE, INCLUDING ROGER'S FINANCIAL CONDITION.
XII. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT TAKING INTO ACCOUNT ROGER'S INABILITY TO PAY IN MAKING THE RULING OF DECEMBER 17, 1998, THAT FORMED THE BASIS FOR THE JUDGMENT APPEALED FROM AND WHETHER THE EVIDENTIARY BASIS FOR THE EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION ORDERED WAS PROVED BY THE PLAINTIFF.
XIII. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT WAS CONSISTENT IN THE APPLICATION OF ITS CREDITS AND DEBITS TO THE MARITAL ESTATE IN COMING UP WITH THE FINAL FIGURE AWARDED TO JO ANN.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 7. The standard of review in domestic relations cases is well-settled:

Our scope of review in domestic relations matters is limited by our familiar substantial evidence/manifest error rule. Stevison v. Woods, 560 So.2d 176, 180 (Miss.1990). "This Court will not disturb the findings of a chancellor unless the chancellor was manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous or an erroneous legal standard was applied." Bell v. Parker, 563 So.2d 594, 596-97 (Miss.1990). See also Ferguson v. Ferguson, 639 So.2d 921 (Miss.1994); Faries v. Faries, 607 So.2d 1204, 1208 (Miss.1992). In other words, "[o]n appeal [we are] required to respect the findings of fact made by a chancellor supported by credible evidence and not manifestly wrong." Newsom v. Newsom, 557 So.2d 511, 514 (Miss.1990). See also Dillon v. Dillon, 498 So.2d 328, 329 (Miss.1986). This is particularly true in the areas of divorce,
771 So.2d 345
alimony and child support. Tilley v. Tilley, 610 So.2d 348, 351 (Miss.1992); Nichols v. Tedder, 547 So.2d 766, 781 (Miss.1989). The word "manifest," as defined in this context, means "unmistakable, clear, plain, or indisputable." Black's Law Dictionary 963 (6th ed.1990). Turpin v. Turpin, 699 So.2d 560, 564 (Miss.1997) (quoting Magee v. Magee, 661 So.2d 1117, 1122 (Miss. 1995)).

Clark v. Clark, 754 So.2d 450, 458 (Miss. 1999).

DISCUSSION

I. WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN GRANTING JO ANN'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT REGARDING EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION AND RULING JO ANN WAS ENTITLED TO EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION PRIOR TO THE TRIAL OF THE MATTER.

¶ 8. This Court's standard of review of a trial court's grant of summary judgment is well established:

Our appellate standard for reviewing the grant or denial of summary judgment is the same standard as that of the trial court under Rule 56(c) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. This Court employs a de novo standard of review of a lower court's grant or denial of summary judgment and examines all the evidentiary matters before it—admissions in pleadings, answers to interrogatories, depositions, affidavits, etc. The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion has been made. If, in this view, there is no genuine issue of material fact and, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, summary judgment should forthwith be entered in his favor. Otherwise, the motion should be denied. Issues of fact sufficient to require denial of a motion for summary judgment obviously are present where one party swears to one version of the matter in issue and another says the opposite. In addition, the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of fact exists is on the moving party. That is, the non-movant should be given the benefit of the doubt. McCullough v. Cook, 679 So.2d 627, 630 (Miss.1996) (quoting Mantachie Natural Gas Dist. v. Mississippi Valley Gas Co., 594 So.2d 1170, 1172 (Miss.1992); Clark v. Moore Mem'l United Methodist Church, 538 So.2d 760, 762 (Miss.1989)).

Mississippi Dep't of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks v. Mississippi Wildlife Enforcement Officers' Ass'n, Inc., 740 So.2d 925, 929-30 (Miss.1999).

¶ 9. In October, 1997, approximately two and one-half years after this Court's earlier ruling in Heigle I, Jo Ann moved for summary judgment asking the chancery court to rule that she was "entitled to an equitable division of the assets accumulated during the time of the marriage between the parties." Jo Ann filed no additional documents in support of her motion. The chancery court granted Jo Ann's motion, stating that "Jo Ann Heigle is entitled to an equitable division of the assets accumulated during the time of the marriage between the parties."

¶ 10. Roger strenuously objected to Jo Ann's motion, noting that "the earlier ruling of this Court granting an equitable division of the parties' property has been reversed by the Supreme Court, and the plaintiff now asks the Court to make the same determination prematurely that has already been reversed once."

¶ 11. In Heigle I, this Court held the chancellor in error when he found Jo Ann was entitled to an equitable distribution of the marital estate when the chancellor was unable to value the estate due to bankruptcy. Heigle I, 654 So.2d at 898. This Court stated:

In the case of property settlement and lump sum alimony, the court's decision must hinge on the value of the marital estate, or the spouses' separate estates.
771 So.2d 346
Ferguson v. Ferguson, 639 So.2d 921, 928-29 (Miss.1994); Cheatham v. Cheatham, 537 So.2d 435, 438 (Miss.1988). In Ferguson, the Court stated: "Property division should be based upon a determination of the fair market value of the assets, and these valuations should be the initial step before determining division." 639 So.2d at 929.
In the instant case, that information was not before the court when it made its determination due to the bankruptcy proceedings involving Heigle Farms. The value of Roger's partnership interest could be several thousand dollars,
...

To continue reading

Request your trial
71 practice notes
  • Elkins v. McKenzie, No. 2002-IA-00845-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • October 30, 2003
    ...be given the benefit of every reasonable doubt. Tucker v. Hinds County., 558 So.2d 869, 872 (Miss.1990). See also Heigle v. Heigle, 771 So.2d 341 (Miss. 2000). The evidence must be reviewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Russell v. Orr, 700 So.2d 619, 622 (Miss.199......
  • Harris v. Mississippi Valley State Univ., 2002-CA-01184-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 13, 2004
    ...genuine issue of fact exists is on the moving party. That is, the non-movant should be given the benefit of any doubt. Heigle v. Heigle, 771 So.2d 341, 345 (Miss.2000) (citing McCullough v. Cook, 679 So.2d 627, 630 (Miss.1996)). Due to the public interest in protecting governmental official......
  • McLemore v. Mississippi Transp. Com'n, 2005-CA-02076-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 12, 2008
    ...the non-movant should be given the benefit of the doubt. City of Jackson v. Sutton, 797 So.2d 977 (Miss.2001) (quoting Heigle v. Heigle, 771 So.2d 341, 345 (Miss.2000)) (internal citations ¶ 7. The McLemores assert that the trial court's finding that the case should have been brought under ......
  • Armistead v. Minor, 2000-CA-01914-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 9, 2002
    ...Inc., 794 So.2d 999, 1002 (Miss.2001); Jenkins v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 794 So.2d 228, 232 (Miss.2001); 815 So.2d 1192 Heigle v. Heigle, 771 So.2d 341, 345 (Miss. 2000). Our appellate standard for reviewing the grant or denial of summary judgment is the same standard as that of the trial cour......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
71 cases
  • Elkins v. McKenzie, No. 2002-IA-00845-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • October 30, 2003
    ...be given the benefit of every reasonable doubt. Tucker v. Hinds County., 558 So.2d 869, 872 (Miss.1990). See also Heigle v. Heigle, 771 So.2d 341 (Miss. 2000). The evidence must be reviewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Russell v. Orr, 700 So.2d 619, 622 (Miss.199......
  • Harris v. Mississippi Valley State Univ., 2002-CA-01184-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 13, 2004
    ...genuine issue of fact exists is on the moving party. That is, the non-movant should be given the benefit of any doubt. Heigle v. Heigle, 771 So.2d 341, 345 (Miss.2000) (citing McCullough v. Cook, 679 So.2d 627, 630 (Miss.1996)). Due to the public interest in protecting governmental official......
  • McLemore v. Mississippi Transp. Com'n, 2005-CA-02076-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 12, 2008
    ...the non-movant should be given the benefit of the doubt. City of Jackson v. Sutton, 797 So.2d 977 (Miss.2001) (quoting Heigle v. Heigle, 771 So.2d 341, 345 (Miss.2000)) (internal citations ¶ 7. The McLemores assert that the trial court's finding that the case should have been brought under ......
  • Armistead v. Minor, 2000-CA-01914-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 9, 2002
    ...Inc., 794 So.2d 999, 1002 (Miss.2001); Jenkins v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 794 So.2d 228, 232 (Miss.2001); 815 So.2d 1192 Heigle v. Heigle, 771 So.2d 341, 345 (Miss. 2000). Our appellate standard for reviewing the grant or denial of summary judgment is the same standard as that of the trial cour......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT