Roley v. Roley

Decision Date18 May 2021
Docket NumberNo. 2019-CP-01863-COA,2019-CP-01863-COA
Parties Veto F. ROLEY, Appellant, v. Chinelo J. ROLEY, Appellee.
CourtMississippi Court of Appeals





¶1. The Jackson County Chancery Court entered a final judgment granting a divorce to Chinelo Roley from Veto Roley on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. The chancellor also awarded Chinelo sole physical and legal custody of the couple's two minor children. The chancellor denied Veto's post-trial motions. Veto appeals pro se, raising numerous assignments of error that we restate for clarity as follows: (1) whether the chancellor erred when he granted Chinelo a fault-based divorce based upon habitual cruel and inhuman treatment;1 (2) whether the chancellor erred when he utilized the Albright2 factors in determining the custody of the couple's two minor children; (3) whether the chancellor erred when he denied Veto's post-trial Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 59 motion "without a de novo hearing" and without issuing findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Veto's Rule 52 request; (4) whether the chancellor erred when he allowed Chinelo a tax deduction for the couple's minor son for the year 2018; (5) whether the chancery court displayed "judicial bias" during a June 5, 2018 motions hearing; (6) whether the chancellor denied Veto his "constitutional due process rights" when the chancellor enforced Mississippi Code Annotated section 11-51-29 (Rev. 2019) (requiring prepayment of appeal costs); (7) whether Mississippi Code Annotated section 93-11-65 (Rev. 2015) (governing testimony by children in divorce proceedings regarding custody preference) is an unconstitutional "prior restraint to [Veto's] children's right to free speech" and whether the chancellor violated the "minor children's First Amendment rights when [he] prevented them from testifying as to their custody preference"; (8) whether the Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC) filing system "gives an unconstitutional advantage to represented litigants over pro se litigants," requiring "that pro se litigants be added to the MEC system" to remedy the situation; (9) whether the chancellor erred when he denied Veto's post-appeal motion to modify visitation with his children; and (10) whether the costs in this appeal should be taxed to the chancery court.

¶2. For the reasons addressed below, we affirm the chancellor's final judgment.


¶3. Chinelo and Veto married in 2006. They have two minor children, a girl who was born in 2012 and a boy who was born in 2007. In April 2017, Chinelo filed her complaint for divorce against Veto alleging as a fault ground habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, and alleging in the alternative irreconcilable differences. Veto filed an answer and counterclaim for separate maintenance.

¶4. The chancellor bifurcated the trial and determined that the "fault issue" would be heard first. On November 16, 2017, the chancellor held a trial on Chinelo's request for a divorce based on habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. At that point, both parties were represented by counsel.

¶5. Chinelo testified in support of her claim and also called two corroborating witnesses—Sally Noel, who had lived with Veto and Chinelo and had known them for a number of years, and Raphael Nnamani, who is Chinelo's then-twenty-year-old nephew and who had lived with the couple for one year and four months.

¶6. Chinelo testified about Veto's inability to control his temper and derogatory comments and names directed to Chinelo, often in front of the children:

At one point he was physical. He has pushed me. A couple of times I had to call someone to come in front of us ... to help me because ... he made me very scared. He ... has always been verbally abusive in front of the kids, in front of the neighbors, in front of my friends. Every time that we have—like, one single fight is, like—it's a lot of outburst, a lot of shouting, a lot of anger. He has punched a hole in the wall twice—one in the hallway, one outside—in his anger. You know, he scares me a lot with—when he's angry, I can't be able to stand in his presence. It's scary. At this point, I'm scared. He's controlling. And the verbal abuse has given me a lot of emotional and mental torture. I mean, ... the children suffer when the house environment is like that. I can no longer be able to stay married to him in that condition.

¶7. Chinelo described the first incident she remembers where Veto was uncontrollably angry and confrontational with her:

[T]he first incident happened in 2012, ... when my son was still a baby. We had this lady, Sally Noel, staying with us [to help with the baby]. And I can't remember what happened, you know, what led to the incident itself, but I was carrying the child, and [Veto] was practically calling me names, pushing me ... he had me, you know, pinned down on the wall ... and I had nowhere to go. So I had to call ... [Sally]. She was upstairs. I said, Sally, come down, please. And she came and she stood right between us and said, you can't touch her, you can't touch her, you know. So that was the first incident.

Chinelo then described an incident that happened in April 2017 when she had to call the police when "[Veto] was screaming at the top of his voice, calling me names. I said, don't call me names in front of my kids, the kids are here .... And then ... I called the cops ... [and] [h]e continued abusing me in front of the female cop who had to warn him to stop talking to his wife like that."

¶8. She described another time that the police were called to her home because of an altercation between Veto and Chinelo's nephew, Raphael, as follows:

[CHINELO:] The second time that it happened [when police were called to her home], I ... came in on the two cops standing in front of there. They were trying to calm him [(Veto)] down, you know. And then I walked in, I said, Veto, you need to calm down. He said, shut up, don't even talk right now, you shut up, you b**ch. And then I ... just called my nephew, I said, let's go inside, let's go get the things that you wanted to get, and ... let him finish up with the cop.
[COUNSEL FOR CHINELO:] Okay. So, now, you mentioned about how he [(Veto)] shakes and how he stomps and walks around .... Does that happen a lot when he's angry?
[CHINELO:] Every time. Every time. That's his ... reaction, you know. His—his anger is something else.

¶9. When asked to describe why she testified that she was fearful of Veto, Chinelo said:

I mean, the—the anger, I don't know what he's going to do, you know. I have no idea what his anger will lead to, you know. Hehe stomps like as if he's going to fight a war, you know. Hehe's—like, when he's emotional, it's like as if there's—like something is going to bust, you know. I'm scared of it. I mean, like, every time I think, okay, what's going to happen now, what's going to happen now. It's in my head. You know, he's causing me too much stress, too much—well, mental stress.

¶10. Chinelo said that "[t]here's been instances of anger outbursts. I ... cannot recollect how many." She testified that "the incident of [Veto] punching a hole in the hallway, ... [and when he] punched a hole right outside [where the roof comes down on their home] ... that's how much of his anger that was out there. His anger is scary."

¶11. On cross-examination Chinelo was asked why she "lived in fear of Veto" when the "pushing" incident in 2012 happened only once. She responded, "Because the ... emotional and the verbal abuse, it overshadows that one." Later during cross-examination, Chinelo was again asked about this issue:

[COUNSEL FOR VETO:] Okay. You said that you lived in constant fear that [Veto] would lose his temper as well as his mind in a fit of rage and either kill or maim me; is that right?
[CHINELO:] Uh-huh.
[COUNSEL FOR VETO:] And you admit that he's put his hands on you once?
[CHINELO:] Once. I mean, he didn't punch me. He just chested me, like ... tried to hold me on the wall.
COUNSEL FOR VETO:] So what made you really believe he was going to do something to physically harm you if he had never done it before?
[CHINELO:] Have you seen him angry? Okay.
COUNSEL FOR VETO:] No, ma'am. I'm not part of this, so—
[CHINELO:] Yeah. I have. It's scary.
COUNSEL FOR VETO:] So in ten years he's never harmed you, yet you still live in fear?
[CHINELO:] Well, we cannot wait until the day he does... [y]eah, that's what I'm saying. We cannot wait until the day he does that.

¶12. Regarding the things Veto would tell the children about her, Chinelo described times when Veto would tell the children "right there in my face, you know, telling them I don't love them; mommy doesn't love you." She further testified:

He does not care that the children should be separated from the things that happen with adults. So he brings everything out to the children to hear, that your mom is evil .... [H]e tells [our son], your mommy is evil, ... your mommy doesn't love you, your mommy doesn't love you, if she loves you, she will stay here.

¶13. Chinelo also testified that "the worst part is that [Veto is] exposing my son to pornography.... This one is a major issue for me .... Veto watches this pornography on his phone and laptop, [and our son] got access to it."

¶14. Additionally, Chinelo testified about Veto's hoarding and refusal to clean (or allow her to clean) the downstairs of the home. Chinelo and the children lived in the upstairs of their home, Veto lived in a downstairs bedroom where the living room and kitchen were also located. Chinelo testified that "[Veto] likes to hold on to things. I will call him ... a hoarder. He does not throw away anything. Nothing." Continuing, Chinelo said that

[w]henever I clean up the house, he comes in in a panic. He starts walking around the house, like

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