Steen v. Steen, No. 92-CA-01316

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtJAMES L. ROBERTS, Jr.; HAWKINS; McRAE; McRAE
Citation641 So.2d 1167
PartiesKathy Elizabeth Bennett STEEN v. Gerald Don STEEN.
Docket NumberNo. 92-CA-01316
Decision Date11 August 1994

Page 1167

641 So.2d 1167
Kathy Elizabeth Bennett STEEN
v.
Gerald Don STEEN.
No. 92-CA-01316.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
Aug. 11, 1994.

Cynthia Langston Lott, Langston Frazer Dockins & Sweet, Jackson, for appellant.

Donald A. McGraw, Jr., Montgomery, Smith-Vaniz & McGraw, Canton, for appellee.

Before PRATHER, P.J., and SULLIVAN and ROBERTS, JJ.

JAMES L. ROBERTS, Jr., Justice, for the Court:

I.

INTRODUCTION

After nine years of marriage, Kathy Elizabeth Steen ("Kathy") sought a divorce from her husband Gerald Don Steen ("Gerald") on grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. The Madison County chancellor dismissed

Page 1168

Kathy's complaint for divorce, granted custody of the couple's two children to Kathy, and ordered that she maintain health insurance for them as a form of separate maintenance. Gerald was not required to pay any child support. Kathy appeals, alleging the following errors:

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN REFUSING TO GRANT KATHY ELIZABETH BENNETT STEEN A DIVORCE ON THE GROUNDS OF HABITUAL CRUEL AND INHUMAN TREATMENT AND IN DISMISSING HER COMPLAINT FOR DIVORCE.

II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT GERALD DON STEEN WAS ENTITLED TO SEPARATE MAINTENANCE.

III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN REFUSING TO GRANT ANY AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT TO BE PAID BY THE NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT TO THE CUSTODIAL PARENT, KATHY ELIZABETH BENNETT STEEN.

IV. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN REFUSING TO ORDER THE NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT TO SHARE IN THE COST OF HIS CHILDREN'S MEDICAL EXPENSES AND DENTAL EXPENSES.

We affirm the chancellor's dismissal of Kathy's complaint for divorce, as well as his order that she maintain health insurance for the children, but we remand for further findings on the issue of child support only.

II.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Gerald and Kathy were married on August 21, 1982, in Attala County, Mississippi. Two children were born of this marriage, Jeffrey Warren Steen, born in 1983, and Gencey Elizabeth Steen, born in 1986. Gerald, thirty-four, is a sales manager for LuVel Dairy. Kathy, thirty-one, is a consultant with the Central Data Processing Authority, State of Mississippi.

Kathy and Gerald experienced marital difficulties for several years prior to the complaint for divorce. They sought counseling with several individuals, to no avail. On April 19, 1991, Kathy filed a complaint for divorce on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment or, in the alternative, irreconcilable differences. An order entered June 10, 1991, granted Kathy temporary custody of Jeffrey and Gencey. Gerald was ordered to pay $375.00 per month in child support, and to maintain medical insurance on the children.

Gerald's answer and counterclaim, filed July 12, 1991, moved to dismiss Kathy's complaint on the ground she had abandoned the marriage without cause. Gerald requested separate maintenance and custody of the children.

Trial was held September 28-29, 1992. During the presentation of her case in chief, Kathy claimed that she had suffered both physical and emotional trauma inflicted by Gerald. She testified that she had begun to show physical manifestations in the form of weakness and fatigue in late 1985 or early 1986. In addition, she testified to two incidents of physical harm. The first incident took place in February or March of 1991. Kathy testified that Gerald became angry, pushed her down on the bed, and while holding her down, repeatedly pinched her hard enough to cause bruises on her arms and upper body. Gerald admitted to the pinching; he testified that Kathy had deliberately provoked his anger by asserting that she had slept with another man, and by expressing further desire to sleep with other men. Kathy, while admitting to an affair with a co-worker in 1984 or 1985, denied telling Gerald of the affair that day. However, she stated that there was a "possibility" she intentionally told Gerald that she wanted to go to bed with other men. Several days after this incident, Kathy and the children moved out of the marital home, into a two bedroom apartment. Kathy testified she left out of fear that Gerald would hit her again and kill her. 1

Page 1169

The second incident occurred after the separation, when Gerald went to Kathy's apartment and attempted to take Jeffrey home with him against Kathy's wishes. Kathy asserted that after she ordered him to leave, Gerald dragged her back inside the apartment, scraping her arm on the door facing. Gerald testified that when he picked Jeffrey up and attempted to leave the apartment, Kathy tried to intervene, and her arm was scratched. 2

Kathy testified that during the marriage, she and Gerald were in constant conflict over finances. Kathy complained that Gerald made all financial decisions in the marriage, and that he made major investments without consulting her. Gerald testified that he did in fact consult Kathy, or attempted to consult with her, on major business decisions.

Other problems complained of by Kathy included a lack of privacy from Gerald's family; Gerald's nagging and constant criticism for her failure to attend church on Sunday or Wednesday nights; disagreement over their sons' involvement in baseball; a lack of intimacy; her sole responsibility for the children; Gerald's complaints that she did not keep an immaculate house, along with his refusal to perform household chores; Gerald's constant bullying and intimidation. Kathy also testified that Gerald became very judgmental after being elected a deacon.

Kathy acknowledged during her testimony that she was dissatisfied with the marriage from its inception until the separation in March of 1991. Kathy also testified that she did not love Gerald and was afraid of him.

Gerald testified he still loved Kathy, despite their marital problems, and that he had never wanted a divorce. Gerald stated that shortly after he became a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Ridgeland in January of 1991, Kathy told him that she wanted a divorce, that she could not be a deacon's wife, and that she wanted her space and freedom. According to Gerald, Kathy also told him that she did not love him, that she had never loved him, and that she never even wanted to marry him. Gerald testified that after their separation, Kathy often brought up the subject of divorce. Gerald stated that he told Kathy he had forgiven her adultery, and desired only that she return to the marital home; he did not wish to divorce and would not agree to one.

At the conclusion of Kathy's case in chief, her complaint for divorce was dismissed. After hearing Gerald's evidence, which focused on custody of Jeffrey and Gencey, the chancellor awarded custody of the children to Kathy. Gerald was awarded visitation rights, use and benefit of the marital home and ordered to make the mortgage payments on the home. Kathy was ordered to pay medical insurance for the children and costs of court, in place of separate maintenance paid to Gerald. The chancellor stated in his judgment that Gerald should not be required to pay child support to Kathy "at this time."

Kathy's motion to amend the chancellor's judgment was denied.

III.

DISCUSSION OF ISSUES

Scope of Review

Our scope of review in domestic relations matters is limited. "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 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...

To continue reading

Request your trial
18 practice notes
  • Waller v. Waller, No. 1998-CA-01067-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • January 13, 2000
    ...chancellor has denied the divorce but nonetheless decided custody. See, e.g. Bowen v. Bowen, 688 So.2d 1374 (Miss.1997); Steen v. Steen, 641 So.2d 1167 (Miss.1994); Faries v. Faries, 607 So.2d 1204 (Miss.1992); Green v. Green, 754 So.2d 1184 317 So.2d 392 (Miss.1975). Indeed, if the parents......
  • Wilbourne v. Wilbourne, No. 1998-CA-00983-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • July 27, 1999
    ...¶ 3. On appeal, this Court will not reverse unless it finds that the findings of the chancellor were manifestly wrong. Steen v. Steen, 641 So.2d 1167, 1169 (Miss. 1994); Daigle v. Daigle, 626 So.2d 140, 144 (Miss.1993). Where there is substantial evidence supporting the chancellor's ruling,......
  • Ligon v. Ligon, No. 98-CA-00190-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • May 4, 1999
    ...findings of fact that are supported by credible evidence particularly in the areas of divorce and child support. Steen v. Steen, 641 So.2d 1167, 1169 (Miss.1994). Where evidence conflicts, the Mississippi Supreme Court typically defers to the chancellor as fact finder. Morrow v. Morrow, 591......
  • Brown v. Brown, No. 2001-CA-00211-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • March 5, 2002
    ...decision unless we are satisfied that her findings were against the substantial weight of the credible evidence. Steen v. Steen, 641 So.2d 1167, 1169 (Miss. ¶ 8. Many examples can be found of conduct which does not meet the requirements of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. In Gallaspy v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • Waller v. Waller, No. 1998-CA-01067-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • January 13, 2000
    ...chancellor has denied the divorce but nonetheless decided custody. See, e.g. Bowen v. Bowen, 688 So.2d 1374 (Miss.1997); Steen v. Steen, 641 So.2d 1167 (Miss.1994); Faries v. Faries, 607 So.2d 1204 (Miss.1992); Green v. Green, 754 So.2d 1184 317 So.2d 392 (Miss.1975). Indeed, if the parents......
  • Wilbourne v. Wilbourne, No. 1998-CA-00983-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • July 27, 1999
    ...¶ 3. On appeal, this Court will not reverse unless it finds that the findings of the chancellor were manifestly wrong. Steen v. Steen, 641 So.2d 1167, 1169 (Miss. 1994); Daigle v. Daigle, 626 So.2d 140, 144 (Miss.1993). Where there is substantial evidence supporting the chancellor's ruling,......
  • Ligon v. Ligon, No. 98-CA-00190-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • May 4, 1999
    ...findings of fact that are supported by credible evidence particularly in the areas of divorce and child support. Steen v. Steen, 641 So.2d 1167, 1169 (Miss.1994). Where evidence conflicts, the Mississippi Supreme Court typically defers to the chancellor as fact finder. Morrow v. Morrow, 591......
  • Brown v. Brown, No. 2001-CA-00211-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • March 5, 2002
    ...decision unless we are satisfied that her findings were against the substantial weight of the credible evidence. Steen v. Steen, 641 So.2d 1167, 1169 (Miss. ¶ 8. Many examples can be found of conduct which does not meet the requirements of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. In Gallaspy v......
  • 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