Thomas v. Byars

Citation947 So.2d 375
Decision Date23 January 2007
Docket NumberNo. 2005-CA-00792-COA.,2005-CA-00792-COA.
PartiesSernia THOMAS, Appellant v. Renovielle D. BYARS, Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Mississippi
947 So.2d 375
Sernia THOMAS, Appellant
Renovielle D. BYARS, Appellee.
No. 2005-CA-00792-COA.
Court of Appeals of Mississippi.
January 23, 2007.

[947 So.2d 376]

Alsee McDaniel, Indianola, attorney for appellant.

Nick Crawford, attorney for appellee.


MYERS, P.J., for the Court.

¶ 1. This case involves custody a minor child, Jozcelyn Thomas. Sernia Thomas, the mother of Jozcelyn Thomas, appeals from the order of the Washington County Chancery Court granting custody of her minor child to the father, Renovielle Byars. In issuing its order, the chancery court found that it had no choice but to award custody of the minor child to the father instead of the maternal grandparents because the grandparents were not joined as parties in the custody suit. The mother, Thomas, asserts that the lower court erred in awarding custody to the father, Byars, rather than the grandparents, and asks this Court to review whether the lower court possessed the authority to place child custody in a third person not party to the suit.

¶ 2. However, upon our review of the case, this Court recognized a potential jurisdictional defect and ordered supplemental briefing of the parties. Prior to the entry of the order by the Washington County Chancery Court, the grandparents were granted temporary custody of Jozcelyn by the Youth Court of Washington County due to the child's abandonment. We find that the chancery court lacked jurisdiction over the matter, and that exclusive original jurisdiction over the custody matter lies in the youth court. Accordingly, we vacate the portion of the chancery court order awarding custody of the minor child to Byars.


¶ 3. A summary of the events leading up to this appeal is necessary to an understanding of our holding. This case began in November of 1999 when a four-year-old child, Jozcelyn Thomas, was abandoned by her mother, Sernia Thomas. Thomas left Jozcelyn with a babysitter for what was supposed to be a week; however, Thomas did not return until March of 2000. When Thomas did not return, the babysitter took Jozcelyn to the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). At this time, MDHS contacted the maternal grandparents, Frank and Helen Johnson (the Johnsons), and requested that they care for

947 So.2d 377

Jozcelyn, along with Thomas' three other children, and the Johnsons obliged. As a result of Jozcelyn's abandonment, the Youth Court of Washington County awarded temporary custody through an emergency custody order to the Johnsons on January 11, 2000.1

¶ 4. In March of 2000, Thomas finally returned to Washington County, and she was charged with child desertion. She pled guilty and was sentenced to one year of house arrest, placed on probation for four years, and ordered to participate in parenting classes. Jozcelyn remained in the custody of the Johnsons. Around this same time, Helen Johnson approached Renovielle Byars, the alleged father, and asked whether he wanted to take custody of Jozcelyn. At this time, Byars declined and stated that he wanted Jozcelyn to stay with her siblings at the Johnsons' home. Over the next few years, Byars visited Jozcelyn on holidays and would take her to his home, but never for more than two weeks. Financially, Byars only provided the Johnsons with a total of $750 to assist with the support of Jozcelyn. However, since Jozcelyn's birth, Byars claimed her as his dependent for the purposes of his state and federal tax returns.

¶ 5. On July 30, 2004, MDHS filed a complaint on behalf of the Johnsons, who had custody of Jozcelyn, seeking to establish paternity and other relief against Jozcelyn's alleged father, Byars. Byars filed an answer to the MDHS complaint and also filed a cross-complaint seeking custody of Jozcelyn. Although not an original party to the suit, Thomas, the mother, was allowed to intervene into the chancery court custody suit and filed an answer to Byars' cross-complaint, together with her cross-complaint seeking custody. A hearing was held by the chancery court on the MDHS complaint to determine paternity and support, Byars' cross-complaint seeking custody and Thomas' cross-complaint seeking custody. On March 10, 2005, the chancery court issued an order awarding custody of Jozcelyn to Byars. The chancery court made the following findings:

I want the record to reflect that the court is [awarding custody to the father] because the court has no choice. The court does not actually believe that the father wants this child. The court believes the father does not want to pay child support. I think it's a shame. I do not think it's is [sic]...

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4 cases
  • In re Uniform Rules of Youth Court Practice, No. 89-R-99033-SCT (Miss. 12/11/2008), 89-R-99033-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • December 11, 2008
    ...these rules. See, e.g., Helmert v. Biffany, 842 So. 2d 1287 (Miss. 2003); K.M.K. v. S.L.M., 775 So. 2d 115 (Miss. 2000); Thomas v. Byars, 947 So. 2d 375 (Miss. Ct. App. Rule 3(c). For procedures pertaining to section 43-21-103 of the Mississippi Code refer to the appendix of these rules. RU......
  • In re Unif. Rules of Youth Court Practice, 89-R-99033-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • July 17, 2012
    ...these rules. See, e.g., Helmert v. Biffany, 842 So. 2d 1287 (Miss. 2003); K.M.K. v. S.L.M., 775 So. 2d 115 (Miss. 2000); Thomas v. Byars, 947 So. 2d 375 (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). RULE 4 DEFINITIONSPage 5 All words and phrases shall have the meaning ascribed in the Mississippi Youth Court Law o......
  • Qualls v. State, 2005-KA-00525-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • January 23, 2007
    ...sight, breathing heavily and sweating, after a police officer saw two men running in the area, one of whom fit the description of Qualls, 947 So.2d 375 and also resembled the suspect who ran from the victim's truck. The State proved the elements of auto burglary to the jury beyond a reasona......
  • Mcdonald v. Mcdonald, 2007-CA-00886-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • June 17, 2010
    ...Jennifer cites two cases, both of which are distinguishable. See In the Interest of D.L.D., 606 So.2d 1125 (Miss.1992); Thomas v. Byars, 947 So.2d 375 (Miss.Ct.App.2007). In D.L.D., this Court dealt with an unlikely situation in which a jurisdictional conflict arose in Wilkinson County, whi......

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