Henderson v. Henderson, No. 1998-CA-01171-SCT.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Citation757 So.2d 285
Docket NumberNo. 1998-CA-01171-SCT.
PartiesMary K. Lawson HENDERSON v. Howard Hugh HENDERSON.
Decision Date13 April 2000

757 So.2d 285

Mary K. Lawson HENDERSON
v.
Howard Hugh HENDERSON

No. 1998-CA-01171-SCT.

Supreme Court of Mississippi.

April 13, 2000.


757 So.2d 287
Lisa B. Milner, Tammy M. Voynik, Jackson, Attorneys for Appellant

John Robert White, Attorney for Appellee.

EN BANC.

MILLS, Justice, for the Court:

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

¶ 1. This appeal arises from the June 17, 1998, decree of the Madison County Chancery Court ordering the equitable distribution of Mary and Howard Henderson's property incident to their divorce. This case was initially tried in 1994, at which time Mary was granted a divorce from Howard on the ground of uncondoned adultery. She was given custody of their minor child, awarded assets valued well in excess of $350,000, and granted periodic alimony in the amount of $683 per month. In contrast, Howard was awarded assets valued at under $20,000. The Court of Appeals affirmed the chancery court's order with regard to the distribution of assets and alimony. This Court, however, having granted Howard's petition for writ of certiorari, found that the chancery court failed to classify assets as marital or nonmarital, failed to make on-the-record determinations of the economic issues presented, and failed to consider the equitable distribution of the marital assets in conjunction with the award of alimony. Accordingly, the case was reversed and remanded on all economic issues.

¶ 2. The matter was retried in 1998, whereupon the chancellor, having classified all assets as marital or nonmarital, awarded Mary's mother one third of the net equity in the marital domicile and divided the remainder of the marital estate equally between Mary and Howard. Neither party was awarded periodic alimony.

¶ 3. Aggrieved by the chancellor's order, Mary appeals to this Court asserting the following issues as error:

I. Whether the chancery court erred in granting Howard one
757 So.2d 288
third of the net equity in the marital domicile when the majority of the construction costs were contributed by Mary's mother.
II. Whether the amount awarded to Howard, totaling $91,640.90, was excessive and inequitable under the circumstances of the case.
III. Whether the chancery court erred in failing to grant Mary permanent periodic alimony and ordering her to repay amounts received as alimony pursuant to the 1994 judgment.

Howard, on cross-appeal, offers one assignment of error:

IV. Whether the chancery court erred in awarding Mary's deceased mother a one third equitable interest in the marital domicile.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

¶ 4. The underlying facts of this case are largely undisputed and are laid out in the Court's original decision, Henderson v. Henderson, 703 So.2d 262 (Miss.1997). They are summarized here, along with subsequent events relevant to this appeal.

¶ 5. Mary and Howard Henderson were married in 1981 and divorced in 1994. One child was born to the marriage, Ryan Lawson, born July 21, 1982. At the time of the divorce, Howard was earning approximately $65,000 per year as a parts and service director at Patty Peck Honda, and Mary was earning approximately $35,000 as a public school teacher.

¶ 6. During their first year of marriage, Howard and Mary lived in a house trailer owned by Howard. The following year, they moved into a traditional home on Springdale Road. Mary's father, J.B. Lawson, contributed approximately $32,000 to the purchase and improvement of this house. The Springdale Road house was eventually sold, and the proceeds, which totaled $44,743, were invested in the construction of a 3,600 square foot house at 123 Carriage Lane in Madison, Mississippi.

¶ 7. Mary and Howard began construction on this new home in 1991. The testimony of the parties indicates that the Carriage Lane home cost approximately $235,000 to build. Of this amount, Mary's mother, Lula Lawson, contributed approximately $120,000.

¶ 8. Both parties testified at trial that Mrs. Lawson made this contribution with the expectation of living in the Carriage Lane home under the care of Mary and Howard until her death. The house was built handicap accessible, and handrails were installed throughout the home to accommodate Mrs. Lawson.

¶ 9. In July of 1992, Mary, Howard, Ryan, and Mrs. Lawson moved into the house on Carriage Lane with Mrs. Lawson occupying a separate apartment attached to the house. In October of 1993, Howard and Mary separated. Howard left the marital home, and shortly thereafter, Mary filed for divorce on the ground of uncondoned adultery and, alternatively, irreconcilable differences.

¶ 10. On October 12, 1994, in a corrected final judgment of divorce, Chancellor Ray H. Montgomery granted Mary a divorce from Howard on the ground of uncondoned adultery. Mary was awarded custody of Ryan, and Howard was ordered to pay $560 per month in child support.

¶ 11. Mary was granted full use and ownership of the Carriage Lane home which had a net equity of approximately $200,000; a Medley/Schwab account, valued at $46,000; an A..B. Culbertson account, valued at $19,212.21; her teacher's retirement account, valued at $36,000; her annuity account, valued at approximately $4,800; her credit union account, valued at $5,062.12; a checking account valued at $700; and a 1991 Dodge Caravan, valued at approximately $8,000. She was also awarded $683 per month in periodic alimony and $4,352.92 in attorney's fees and expenses.

757 So.2d 289
¶ 12. Howard was awarded a pontoon boat, valued between $5,000 and $6,000; a 401K plan, valued at $1,300; an A.B. Culbertson account, valued at $9,000; a bicycle rack; a stereo receiver; a turntable; tapes; and a watercolor painting

¶ 13. Aggrieved, Howard appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed and rendered in part. Henderson v. Henderson, 691 So.2d 1037 (Miss.Ct.App.1996) (table).

¶ 14. This Court on writ of certiorari affirmed as to the granting of the divorce but reversed and remanded on all economic issues, finding that the chancellor failed to make the requisite findings of fact with regard to the classification of assets as marital or non-marital, failed to consider the equitable distribution of the marital assets in conjunction with the award of periodic alimony, and failed to make the requisite on the record determinations of the economic issues. Henderson, 703 So.2d at 262.

¶ 15. On remand, Chancellor Lutz, in an order dated June 17, 1998, made specific determinations regarding the classification of the assets as marital and non-marital and made awards accordingly. He specifically granted the following assets to Mary: 1) possession of the marital home; 2) one third of the net equity of the marital home at the time of the divorce or $66,633.33; 3) PERS account in the amount of $36,000; 4) Medley/Schwab account of $48,000 (a gift from her parents that was never commingled); 5) Culbertson account of $19,212 (also a gift from her parents that was never commingled); 6) $4800 in her Tax Sheltered Annuity; 7) $5,062 in the Credit Union Account; 8) $700 in her checking account; 9) the Dodge van valued at $8,000; 10) the home furnishings valued at $5,000; 11) monthly child support in the amount of $600; and 12) life insurance policy covering Howard in the amount of $70,000.

¶ 16. Howard received the following assets: 1) one third of the net equity of the marital home at the time of the divorce or $66,633.33; 2) $13,453.57 as property settlement; 3) the pontoon boat valued at $5,500; 4) his 401K valued at $1,300; 5) Culbertson Account valued at $9,000; and 6) his checking account in the amount of $3,000.

¶ 17. The most significant of the chancellor's findings was his determination that one third of the net equity in the Carriage Lane home was nonmarital property belonging to Mrs. Lawson. As Mrs. Lawson had died in the interim between trials, the award was made to her estate. Mary is Mrs. Lawson's sole heir; as such, the award to Mrs. Lawson went to her. In dividing the marital estate, the chancellor awarded the marital home to Mary with Howard receiving one third of its net equity. Of the remaining marital assets, Mary received $45,707.14 and Howard received $18,800. To compensate for this discrepancy, Mary was required to pay Howard $13,453.57 as a property settlement.

¶ 18. In considering the issue of alimony, Chancellor Lutz found that Mary was entitled to $400 per month in rehabilitative alimony for 36 months totaling $14,400, but denied her request for permanent periodic alimony. Chancellor Lutz further ordered Mary to repay the $25,954 she received in periodic alimony pursuant to Chancellor Montgomery's 1994 divorce order. Offsetting this amount against the amount of rehabilitative alimony to which he found her entitled, Chancellor Lutz ordered Mary to repay Howard $11,554.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 19. In matters of equitable distribution and alimony, the Court enjoys only limited powers of review. 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. Hammett v. Woods, 602 So.2d 825, 827 (Miss.1992). In other words, "[t]he Court will not disturb the findings of a chancellor

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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)

DISCUSSION

¶ 20. The appropriate process by which marital assets should be distributed pursuant to divorce is well settled.

First, the character of the parties' assets, i.e., marital or nonmarital, must be determined ... The marital property is then equitably divided, employing the Ferguson factors as guidelines, in light of each parties' nonmarital property. Ferguson, 639 So.2d at 928. If there are sufficient marital assets which, when equitably divided and considered with each spouse's nonmarital assets, will adequately provide for both parties, no
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65 practice notes
  • Gutierrez v. Gutierrez, NO. 2016–CA–00129–SCT
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • June 15, 2017
    ...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, 289–90 (Miss. 2000) (citing Hammett v. Woods, 602 So.2d 825, 827 (Miss. 1992) ). Likewise, a "chancellor has substantial discretion in deciding......
  • Evans v. Evans, Nos. 2009–CP–00953–COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • December 1, 2011
    ...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 will not disturb a chancellor's factual findings unless the chancellor's decision was manifestly wrong or clearly err......
  • Roley v. Roley, 2019-CP-01863-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • May 18, 2021
    ...in fashioning equitable remedies in domestic-relations matters[.]" Dickinson , 293 So. 3d at 326 (¶5) (quoting Henderson v. Henderson , 757 So. 2d 285, 289 (¶19) (Miss. 2000) ). Accordingly, "[t]his Court will not disturb a chancellor's judgment when it is supported by substantial credible ......
  • Rhodes v. Rhodes, No. 2009-CA-00555-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • January 11, 2011
    ...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 will not disturb a chancellor's factual findings unless the chancellor's decision was manifestly wrong or clearly err......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
65 cases
  • Gutierrez v. Gutierrez, NO. 2016–CA–00129–SCT
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • June 15, 2017
    ...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, 289–90 (Miss. 2000) (citing Hammett v. Woods, 602 So.2d 825, 827 (Miss. 1992) ). Likewise, a "chancellor has substantial discretion in deciding......
  • Evans v. Evans, Nos. 2009–CP–00953–COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • December 1, 2011
    ...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 will not disturb a chancellor's factual findings unless the chancellor's decision was manifestly wrong or clearly err......
  • Roley v. Roley, 2019-CP-01863-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • May 18, 2021
    ...in fashioning equitable remedies in domestic-relations matters[.]" Dickinson , 293 So. 3d at 326 (¶5) (quoting Henderson v. Henderson , 757 So. 2d 285, 289 (¶19) (Miss. 2000) ). Accordingly, "[t]his Court will not disturb a chancellor's judgment when it is supported by substantial credible ......
  • Rhodes v. Rhodes, No. 2009-CA-00555-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • January 11, 2011
    ...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 will not disturb a chancellor's factual findings unless the chancellor's decision was manifestly wrong or clearly err......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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