Littlefield v. Littlefield, NO. 2018-CP-00200-COA

CourtCourt of Appeals of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtTINDELL, J., FOR THE COURT
Citation282 So.3d 820
Parties Perry Edward LITTLEFIELD, Appellant v. Brooke Dixon LITTLEFIELD, Appellee
Docket NumberNO. 2018-CP-00200-COA
Decision Date27 August 2019

282 So.3d 820

Perry Edward LITTLEFIELD, Appellant
v.
Brooke Dixon LITTLEFIELD, Appellee

NO. 2018-CP-00200-COA

Court of Appeals of Mississippi.

August 27, 2019


ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: PERRY EDWARD LITTLEFIELD (PRO SE)

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JAMES ROGER FRANKS JR., PITTSBURGH, WILLIAM RUFUS WHEELER JR., TIFFANY KAIL PHARR, TUPELO

BEFORE BARNES, C.J., TINDELL AND McCARTY, JJ.

TINDELL, J., FOR THE COURT:

¶1. Perry Edward "Eddie" Littlefield appeals the opinion and final judgment of the Lafayette County Chancery Court entered on February 5, 2018, which granted a divorce in favor of Brooke Dixon Littlefield on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Eddie also challenges the chancellor's equitable division of the couple's marital property following Brooke's waiver of certain rights to marital property and the chancellor's dismissal of his counterclaim with prejudice. Finding no error, we affirm the chancellor's judgment of divorce and division of the property. We also affirm the chancellor's dismissal of Eddie's counterclaim with prejudice.

FACTS

¶2. Eddie and Brooke were married in Lafayette County, Mississippi on May 3, 2012, until their separation on or about May 11 or 12, 2017. The couple had no children from the marriage and very little personal property to divide. On May 18, 2017, Brooke filed her complaint for divorce on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment or, in the alternative, for irreconcilable differences, and Eddie filed his answer and counterclaim for divorce on the ground of adultery. The parties filed an agreed scheduling order, setting deadlines for all dispositive and pre-trial motions and setting the divorce trial for November 13, 2017. On November 9, 2017, four days before trial, Eddie filed a motion to amend his counterclaim, requesting that the chancellor dismiss his claim for divorce on the ground of adultery. The chancellor denied this motion as untimely.

¶3. Divorce proceedings occurred on November 13, 2017, and January 8, 2018. The chancellor heard testimony from several witnesses, including Eddie, Brooke, and Brooke's mother, Jean Dixon, and was provided with text messages exchanged between Eddie and Brooke. On February 5, 2018, the chancellor entered his opinion and final judgment, finding Brooke's testimony to be credible and sufficiently corroborated by other evidence. The chancellor also noted Eddie's extremely disruptive and antagonistic behavior during the divorce proceedings. In his opinion and final judgment, the chancellor granted a divorce in favor of Brooke on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment and dismissed Eddie's counterclaim for divorce based upon adultery with prejudice.

¶4. The chancellor also found that the parties acquired most of their debts and personal property during the marriage. Because Brooke waived her right to most of the marital and disputed property, the chancellor awarded this property to Eddie. Brooke was awarded all remaining property,

282 So.3d 824

including a 2007 Infiniti, while Eddie was awarded the couple's Nissan Xterra. The chancellor also denied Eddie's request for alimony and for Brooke to bear responsibility for the remainder of his student loans. Aggrieved by this judgment, Eddie now timely appeals.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶5. We apply a limited standard of review when examining a chancellor's decision in domestic-relations matters. Williams v. Williams , 224 So. 3d 1282, 1284 (¶5) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). "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." Henderson v. Henderson , 757 So. 2d 285, 289 (¶19) (Miss. 2000). We review the facts of a divorce decree "in a light most favorable to the appellee," and unless the chancellor's judgment was manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous, or based on an erroneous legal standard, the judgment should stand. Fisher v. Fisher , 771 So. 2d 364, 367 (¶8) (Miss. 2000).

¶6. When reviewing chancellor's judgment of property division, we are required "to ensure that the chancellor followed the appropriate standards and did not abuse his discretion." Wells v. Wells , 800 So. 2d 1239, 1243 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App. 2001). We also review the chancellor's decision to deny Eddie's motion to amend his counterclaim for abuse of discretion. Hutzel v. City of Jackson , 33 So. 3d 1116, 1119 (¶10) (Miss. 2010).

ANALYSIS

¶7. In his brief, Eddie raises nine separate issues. The first six issues all relate to the chancellor's factual findings and decision to grant a divorce in favor of Brooke on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Eddie's seventh and eighth issues relate to the chancellor's division of the couple's property, and the remaining issue concerns the dismissal of Eddie's counterclaim with prejudice as opposed to dismissing the claim without prejudice. Because Eddie's issues can be separated into the foregoing three groups, we consolidate the issues and analyze them accordingly.

I. HABITUAL CRUEL AND INHUMAN TREATMENT

¶8. Eddie first argues that the chancellor erred in granting a divorce in favor of Brooke on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Mississippi Code Annotated section 93-5-1 (Rev. 2018) allows a chancellor to grant a divorce based upon habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Divorce is properly granted upon this ground if the claimant establishes, by a preponderance of the evidence, conduct that either:

(1) endangers life, limb, or health, or creates a reasonable apprehension of such danger and renders the relationship unsafe for the party seeking relief, or

(2) is so unnatural and infamous as to render the marriage revolting to the non-offending spouse, making it impossible to carry out the duties of the marriage, therefore destroying the basis for its continuance.

Alexander v. Alexander , 95 So. 3d 696, 699 (¶9) (Miss. Ct. App. 2012) (citing N. Shelton Hand, Mississippi Divorce, Alimony and Child Custody § 4:12 (2d ed. Supp. 1991)). In addition, there must be a causal connection between the treatment and the actual or threatened harm to the claimant's health or well-being. Bias v. Bias , 493 So. 2d 342, 345 (Miss. 1986) ; see also Faries v. Faries , 607 So. 2d 1204, 1209 (Miss. 1992) ;

282 So.3d 825

Farris v. Farris , 202 So. 3d 223, 232 (¶33) (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). To establish such a causal connection, there must be some corroboration to the moving party's testimony of the offensive conduct, except in cases of isolation. Jones v. Jones , 43 So. 3d 465, 478 (¶30) (Miss. Ct. App. 2009). Evidence of something more than "mere unkindness, rudeness, petty indignities, frivolous quarrels, incompatibility or lack of affection" is required to establish habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. Id. at 469 (¶9).

¶9. Eddie primarily argues that a lack of evidence and corroborating testimony existed to prove habitual cruel and inhuman treatment at trial. During the two-day divorce proceedings, the chancellor's main source of evidence came by way of Brooke's sworn testimony. Brooke testified that during their marriage Eddie maintained strict control over her at all times, which placed her under extreme stress on a day-to-day basis. Eddie screamed at her, both in private and in public, calling her "stupid" and "inadequate," especially when she challenged him during an argument. She described her arguments with Eddie as ones where she was constantly "on trial" with Eddie, a law student, acting as both "the judge and the jury." According to Brooke, when she disagreed with Eddie, he would often "flip out" or "fly off the handle," becoming "very angry very quickly." Brooke explained that Eddie would escalate arguments in such a way that she would never have time to think about the argument and, if she did not adequately "plead her case" to Eddie, she would "never win."

¶10. Brooke also described the harsh nature by which Eddie approached their sexual relationship. Throughout their five-year marriage, Brooke testified that she would often work 10 to 12-hour shifts as the manager of a Pet Smart in Oxford, Mississippi. During this time, Eddie primarily attended law school while she worked. When Brooke returned home from work, Eddie would demand sexual intimacy of her every day. If Brooke was tired, Eddie would become angry and aggressive with Brooke, and then go into another room to watch pornography and masturbate while she was in the house. When Brooke attempted to discuss the issue with Eddie, he would again yell and argue with her, making her feel "inadequate" and "powerless" to mend their sexual relationship.

¶11. Brooke testified that in the weeks surrounding the couple's separation there were several instances where she feared for her safety and for Eddie's own safety due to his erratic and sometimes violent behavior. The first instance occurred before the separation. Brooke testified that she and Eddie were arguing when Eddie became extremely irrational and emotional. Eddie then took a chair to the couple's backyard and sat alone in the backyard, crying and repeatedly stating that he "was ready to...

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13 practice notes
  • Roley v. Roley, 2019-CP-01863-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • May 18, 2021
    ...of proof based on the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of their testimony.’ " 329 So.3d 493 Littlefield v. Littlefield , 282 So. 3d 820, 827 (¶19) (Miss. Ct. App. 2019) (quoting Rawson v. Buta , 609 So. 2d 426, 431 (Miss. 1992) ). "Divorces based upon habitual cruel and inhuman t......
  • Spiers v. Oak Grove Credit, LLC, 2020-CA-00827-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 18, 2021
    ...Griffin v. CitiMortgage, Inc. , 296 So. 3d 767, 772 (Miss. Ct. App. 2020) (alteration in original) (quoting Littlefield v. Littlefield , 282 So. 3d 820, 829-30 (Miss. Ct. App. 2019) (citing Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. Halliburton Co. , 826 So. 2d 1206, 1219 (Miss. 2001) )). The Court of Appea......
  • Spiers v. Oak Grove Credit, LLC, 2020-CA-00827-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 18, 2021
    ...Griffin v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 296 So.3d 767, 772 (Miss. Ct. App. 2020) (alteration in original) (quoting Littlefield v. Littlefield, 282 So.3d 820, 829-30 (Miss. Ct. App. 2019) (citing Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. Halliburton Co., 826 So.2d 1206, 1219 (Miss. 2001))). The Court of Appeals cont......
  • Roley v. Roley, NO. 2019-CP-01863-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • May 18, 2021
    ...the sufficiency of proof based on the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of their testimony.'" Littlefield v. Littlefield, 282 So. 3d 820, 827 (¶19) (Miss. Ct. App. 2019) (quoting Rawson v. Buta, 609 So. 2d 426, 431Page 26 (Miss. 1992)). "Divorces based upon habitual cruel and inhu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Roley v. Roley, 2019-CP-01863-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • May 18, 2021
    ...of proof based on the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of their testimony.’ " 329 So.3d 493 Littlefield v. Littlefield , 282 So. 3d 820, 827 (¶19) (Miss. Ct. App. 2019) (quoting Rawson v. Buta , 609 So. 2d 426, 431 (Miss. 1992) ). "Divorces based upon habitual cruel and inhuman t......
  • Spiers v. Oak Grove Credit, LLC, 2020-CA-00827-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 18, 2021
    ...Griffin v. CitiMortgage, Inc. , 296 So. 3d 767, 772 (Miss. Ct. App. 2020) (alteration in original) (quoting Littlefield v. Littlefield , 282 So. 3d 820, 829-30 (Miss. Ct. App. 2019) (citing Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. Halliburton Co. , 826 So. 2d 1206, 1219 (Miss. 2001) )). The Court of Appea......
  • Spiers v. Oak Grove Credit, LLC, 2020-CA-00827-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 18, 2021
    ...Griffin v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 296 So.3d 767, 772 (Miss. Ct. App. 2020) (alteration in original) (quoting Littlefield v. Littlefield, 282 So.3d 820, 829-30 (Miss. Ct. App. 2019) (citing Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. Halliburton Co., 826 So.2d 1206, 1219 (Miss. 2001))). The Court of Appeals cont......
  • Roley v. Roley, NO. 2019-CP-01863-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • May 18, 2021
    ...the sufficiency of proof based on the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of their testimony.'" Littlefield v. Littlefield, 282 So. 3d 820, 827 (¶19) (Miss. Ct. App. 2019) (quoting Rawson v. Buta, 609 So. 2d 426, 431Page 26 (Miss. 1992)). "Divorces based upon habitual cruel and inhu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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