Henderson v. Henderson, 94-CT-01141-SCT

Decision Date20 November 1997
Docket NumberNo. 94-CT-01141-SCT,94-CT-01141-SCT
Citation703 So.2d 262
PartiesHoward Hugh HENDERSON v. Mary K. Lawson HENDERSON.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

John Robert White, Jackson, for appellant.

Joanne S. Samson, John David Price, Wise Carter Child & Caraway, Jackson, for appellee.

En Banc.


PITTMAN, Justice, for the Court:

¶1 This matter comes before the Court after having granted Howard Henderson's petition for writ of certiorari. In an order entered October 12, 1994, the Madison County Chancery Court divided the marital property without applying equitable principles relative to the marital assets. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed and rendered in part.

¶2 We find that the chancery court failed to consider the equitable distribution of the marital assets, the award of periodic alimony, and the award of child support. Accordingly, we reverse and remand on all economic issues.


¶3 Mary and Howard Henderson were married on January 24, 1981, in Jackson, Mississippi. During the first year of their marriage, they lived in a house trailer owned by Howard. At the time of the marriage, Howard was earning approximately $14,100 per year in the automotive business and Mary was earning approximately $17,900 per year as a public school teacher. At the time of the trial, Howard was earning approximately $65,000 as a parts and service director at Patty Peck Honda, and Mary was earning approximately $35,000 as a public school teacher. However, at the time of trial, one child was born to the marriage, Ryan Lawson, born on July 21, 1982.

¶4 In 1982, Mary's father, J.B. Lawson, gave the couple $20,000 to pay down on a conventional house on Springdale Road in Jackson. Mr. Lawson also loaned them approximately $12,000 to add a larger den and to remodel the kitchen. In August of 1989, Mr. Lawson died. Mary testified that prior to her father's death, she and her father talked about her selling his house on Woodstock and his house on Pepper Ridge and using the proceeds from the sale of those houses to build a house for her and Howard, which would also accommodate his wife, Mary's mother.

¶5 Between August of 1989 and July of 1992, Mary and Howard decided to build a 3,600 square foot house at 123 Carriage Lane in Madison, Mississippi. The proceeds from the sale of Mary's father's houses, the equity from the sale of the couple's home on Springdale Road, along with various Certificate of Deposits worth about $60,000, were used to build the house. At the time of completion, the house was appraised for $285,000, with an outstanding mortgage of approximately $70,000. At the time of the trial, the mortgage on the house had been reduced to approximately $68,000.

¶6 In July of 1992, Mary, Howard and Ryan, along with Mary's mother, moved into the house with Mary's mother occupying a separate apartment attached to the house. A year and three months later, October of 1993, the couple separated and Howard left the marital home to live in a house trailer nearby. Shortly thereafter, Mary filed a complaint for divorce alleging uncondoned adultery and, alternatively, irreconcilable differences.

¶7 On September 2, 1994, Mary was granted a divorce. The chancellor's order provided for the settlement of child custody, support, visitation, alimony and the division of real and personal property. The final judgment of divorce was entered on October 12, 1994. Mary was awarded custody of Ryan, and Howard was granted reasonable visitation. Mary was also awarded full use and ownership of the marital house; the 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. She was also awarded $560 per month in child support; $683 per month in periodic alimony; and attorneys' fees and expenses totaling $4,352.92.

¶8 Howard was awarded the pontoon boat, valued between $5,000 and $6,000; a 401K plan, valued at $1,300; an A.B. Culbertson/I.R.A. account, valued at $9,000; a bicycle rack; a stereo receiver; a turntable; tapes; and a watercolor painting. Howard was also required to maintain health insurance for Ryan, and a life insurance policy in the amount of $170,000 with Ryan named as the beneficiary.

¶9 During his direct appeal, Howard argued that: (1) the lower court erred in restricting his visitation to times when his paramour was not present; (2) that the lower court erred in awarding Mary attorneys' fees in the amount of $3,500 plus expenses of $852.92; (3) the lower court failed to consider together the equitable distribution of the marital assets, the award of periodic alimony, and the award of child support; and (4) it was error to require him to carry $170,000 of life insurance.

¶10 In its decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court as to the granting of the divorce to Mary K. Lawson Henderson. The Court of Appeals reversed and rendered on Issue I, which concerned the restriction of Howard Henderson's visitation with his son to times when his paramour was not present, and Issue II relative to the award of attorneys' fees to Mary Henderson. The court affirmed as to Issues III and IV, all being economic issues. The question presented in Issue III was "whether the court erred by failing to consider together the equitable distribution of the marital assets, the award of periodic alimony, and the award of child support?" The question presented in Issue IV was "whether the court erred in requiring Mr. Henderson to carry $170,000 in life insurance?"

¶11 In affirming Issue III, the Court of Appeals explained that the chancellor's distribution of marital assets, the award of periodic alimony, and the award of child support, based on the totality of the circumstances, were correct. After Howard's petition for rehearing was denied on December 3, 1996, he filed this petition for writ of certiorari.

¶12 We affirm the granting of the divorce, but reverse and remand all economic issues for reasons stated hereafter. We find that in determining marital assets, distribution of marital assets, and child support, the parties and the Court are entitled to more than generalities. The parties are entitled to specific findings as to property acquisition, division thereof, and contrary specific findings as to child support.


¶13 In a domestic case, this Court "will not disturb a chancellor's findings unless manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous, or if the chancellor applied an erroneous legal standard." Johnson v. Johnson, 650 So.2d 1281, 1285 (Miss.1994) (citing McEwen v. McEwen, 631 So.2d 821, 823 (Miss.1994)).


¶14 First, Howard relies on Johnson v. Johnson, 650 So.2d 1281 (Miss.1994), to argue that the chancellor erred in divesting him of all his interest in the marital home based on a finding that the marital home had been purchased with gifts received from Mary's parents. Howard explains that once those gifts were commingled with the marital property, they lost their character as nonmarital property and became subject to equitable distribution. Howard argues that Mary commingled the gifts from her parents, first by investing them in the couple's marital home on Springdale Drive, then by commingling them in accounts jointly owned by the parties, and finally by investing subsequent gifts and the equity in the Springdale Drive home into the marital home on Carriage Lane, which was titled to the parties as joint tenants and was enjoyed as the...

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  • Lowrey v. Lowrey
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • November 5, 2009
    ...the law to the facts at hand create error. Failure to make an on-the-record Armstrong analysis is manifest error. See Henderson v. Henderson, 703 So.2d 262, 266 (Miss.1997); Armstrong, 618 So.2d at ¶ 8. The minimal findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding equitable division resulti......
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    ... ... payment, and mutual obligations for child support should be considered together." Henderson v. Henderson, 703 So.2d 262 (¶ 18) (Miss.1997), (quoting Ferguson, 639 So.2d at 929 ). As the ... ...
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    ...adjust the Ferguson distribution in light of one spouse's substantial monetary contribution to the marital home. Id. The Court cited Henderson v. Henderson, in which a couple had used funds contributed by one spouse's parents as a down payment on a jointly owned home, and the chancellor bes......
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    ... ... invest in a marital home were commingled. E.g. , ... Henderson v. Henderson , 703 So.2d 262, 265 (Miss ... 1997); see also Castle , 266 So.3d at 1051 ... ...
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