Walton v. Snyder, 2006-CA-01769-COA.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Mississippi
Citation984 So.2d 343
Docket NumberNo. 2006-CA-01769-COA.,2006-CA-01769-COA.
PartiesBilly Ray WALTON, Appellant v. Tamara J. (Walton) SNYDER, Appellee.
Decision Date04 December 2007
984 So.2d 343
Billy Ray WALTON, Appellant
Tamara J. (Walton) SNYDER, Appellee.
No. 2006-CA-01769-COA.
Court of Appeals of Mississippi.
December 4, 2007.
Rehearing Denied March 18, 2008.

[984 So.2d 344]

John A. Ferrell, Booneville, attorney for appellant.

J. Mark Shelton, attorney for appellee.


BARNES, J., for the Court.

¶ 1. Dr. Billy Ray Walton appeals the judgment of the Chancery Court of Lee County which increased the child support for his two children to the statutory guideline of twenty percent of his adjusted gross income. The chancellor also ordered the increase retroactive to the date of the filing of the petition to modify child support, thereby entering a judgment against Dr. Walton for $15,709.80. Lastly, the chancellor entered a judgment against Dr. Walton of $9,216 to rectify under-reporting of his gross income for the original adjudication of child support. We affirm the chancellor's judgment increasing child support to $2,647.32 per month and ordering the judgment retroactive from the date of the

984 So.2d 345

petition to modify. However, we find the trial court erred in entering a judgment of $9,216 against Dr. Walton. Accordingly, we reverse and render solely as to that issue.


¶ 2. On March 18, 2002, a final judgment of divorce based on irreconcilable differences was granted in the Chancery Court of Lee County for Tamara Snyder1 and Billy Ray Walton. Ms. Snyder, who had moved from Tupelo to Ridgeland, Mississippi, the year the couple separated in 1999, received sole physical custody of the couple's two children, Matthew and Jane Katherine. Both children have been enrolled at a private school, Madison Ridgeland Academy ("MRA"), since that time. In the final judgment of divorce, the chancery court awarded Ms. Snyder $1,600 per month for child support. The chancellor also awarded Ms. Snyder periodic alimony of $2,500 per month. The chancellor's order further specified that Dr. Walton must pay the private school tuition at MRA for both children until the end of the 2001-2002 school year. During the time of the divorce, Dr. Walton reported a gross annual income of $153,000. Since the divorce, Dr. Walton has remarried, while Ms. Snyder has not.

¶ 3. In September 2002, the chancellor entered an order amending the final judgment of divorce. The order adjudged Dr. Walton responsible for private school tuition for his son Matthew only, for the 2002-2003 academic year at MRA, unless Ms. Snyder obtained a full-time job and earned more than $2,000 per month. The order also explained that Dr. Walton was not obligated to pay private school tuition for Matthew after the 2002-2003 academic year, but he could if he so chose.2 Ms. Snyder was ordered to pay Jane Katherine's private school tuition. Also, the parties were ordered to split an income tax refund for 2001 which amounted to $6,123 received by each party due to an error in the reporting of Dr. Walton's income to the IRS.

¶ 4. In November 2004, Ms. Snyder filed a complaint against Dr. Walton for contempt of court and for modification of the final judgment of divorce and for other relief. Ms. Snyder sought an increase in child support equal to or in excess of the statutory percentage of twenty percent of Dr. Walton's adjusted gross income because of an increase in the two children's expenses and an increase in Dr. Walton's income since the original divorce proceedings. At that time Matthew and Jane Katherine were fifteen and eleven years old, respectively. Ms. Snyder sought the increase to be retroactive from the date of the final judgment of divorce in March 2002. Among other issues, Ms. Snyder requested that Dr. Walton be responsible for the costs incurred in private schooling and college for both children. Further, Ms. Snyder alleged fraud upon the court by Dr. Walton in understating his 2001 income by nearly $30,000 during the divorce proceedings. Dr. Walton eventually rectified the error with the IRS and filed an amended income tax return, which Ms. Snyder signed, but he never amended his financial disclosures to the chancery court.

¶ 5. During a hearing in July 2005, the court heard testimony from both Dr. Walton and Ms. Snyder. Dr. Walton explained, regarding the misstatement of income on his 8.05 financial disclosure form for the year of the divorce, that the discrepancy

984 So.2d 346

was because he was employed at different locations and his W-2 form from one of his employers was sent to a vacated address. He found out about the error when the IRS notified him of the discrepancy. His annual gross income at the time of the divorce was actually $181,000, not $153,000. For the current proceeding, Dr. Walton reported an annual gross income of $245,590 and a monthly adjusted gross income of $13,236.58. Ms. Snyder expected to earn an adjusted monthly gross income of approximately $1,754, as she had recently obtained a job as a mail carrier. On her financial disclosure form, Ms. Snyder also reported a monthly income of $4,100: $2,500 derived from alimony and $1,600 from child support.3 Ms. Snyder reported total monthly expenses of approximately $6,400. Ms. Snyder testified that her parents help provide funding for private school education and unexpected expenses when she is short of funds.

¶ 6. On February 3, 2006, the chancellor issued a bench opinion which was later reduced to a written opinion and judgment. The court dismissed Ms. Snyder's contempt of court allegation against Dr. Walton with prejudice. The court increased Dr. Walton's child support to twenty percent of his adjusted gross income of $13,236.58, or $2,647.32 per month. In his opinion, the chancellor discussed numerous factors to justify this increase, including the increased needs of the children because of their ages, the increased expenses of the children, and Dr. Walton's increased earning capacity since the divorce. The chancellor also considered the issue of private school regarding these factors, and opined that since "the children attended private school during the marriage and at the time of the divorce . . . [they] should have the opportunity to continue their education in private schools."

¶ 7. Additionally, the court increased the child support retroactive to the date of the filing of the petition to modify. The court, therefore, awarded Ms. Snyder a judgment in the amount of $15,709.80, which equals the difference between the amount of child support Dr. Walton was paying under the previous court order and the increase in child support, multiplied by the fifteen months from November 2004 until February 2006.

¶ 8. Finally, the court addressed the fraud alleged by Ms. Snyder for Dr. Walton's misstatement of income during the original divorce proceeding. The court explained that while it was "hard to believe, as has been argued by [Dr. Walton], that his representation of his income was an honest mistake . . . . it does find that it was a mistake and that it went to the detriment of the children involved in this case." Therefore, the chancellor rendered a judgment against Dr. Walton of $9,216. This amount represents the deficiency in Dr. Walton's child support payments of approximately $288 per month for the thirty-two month period, from March 2002 to November 20044, since Dr. Walton's gross income was actually eighteen percent more than he had represented to the court at the time of the divorce.

¶ 9. Subsequently, Dr. Walton filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, which was denied. Dr. Walton then perfected his appeal, raising two issues: whether the trial court committed reversible error in (1) increasing the amount of

984 So.2d 347

child support that Dr. Walton was to pay Ms. Snyder and ordering that increase retroactive from the time the petition to modify was filed, and (2) increasing the original child support amount retroactive to the time of the divorce because of Dr. Walton's mistake in reporting his income.


¶ 10. Our standard of review in domestic matters is limited. A chancellor's decision, when supported by substantial evidence, will not be reversed on appeal unless the chancellor "abused his discretion, was manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous or an erroneous legal standard was applied." Kilpatrick v. Kilpatrick, 732 So.2d 876, 880(¶ 13) (Miss.1999) (citing Herring Gas Co. v. Whiddon, 616 So.2d 892, 894 (Miss.1993)). Further, chancellors are given broad discretion in the area of modification of child support. Morris v. Stacy, 641 So.2d 1194, 1196 (Miss.1994). "[A]rriving at an award of child support is essentially an exercise in fact-finding," which restricts our Court's review considerably. Clausel v. Clausel, 714 So.2d 265, 266-67(¶ 6) (Miss.1998) (quoting Gillespie v. Gillespie, 594 So.2d 620, 622 (Miss.1992)). For questions of law, the standard of review is de novo. Id. (citing Harrison Co. v. City of Gulfport, 557 So.2d 780, 784 (Miss.1990)).


I. Whether the trial court erred in increasing Dr. Walton's child support.5

¶ 11. Dr. Walton argues that the decision of the chancellor was improperly based upon the children's attending private school and its attendant costs. He claims this factor cannot constitute a material change. Dr. Walton states there is no other specific proof in the record of increased expenses for the children besides private school expenses. Also, he maintains his increased income was foreseeable at the time of the divorce and, thus, cannot be considered a material change. Finally, Dr. Walton argues Ms. Snyder's own income increase was not properly considered by the court.

¶ 12. The authority...

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5 cases
  • Trim v. Trim, No. 2007-CA-01648-COA (Miss. App. 4/21/2009), 2007-CA-01648-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 21 Abril 2009
    ...(10th Cir. 1985) (citation omitted). A motion based upon fraud on the court must be brought within a reasonable time. Walton v. Snyder, 984 So. 2d 343, 350-51 (¶¶21-23) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). Fraud on an adverse party is found where only one witness commits perjury. Tirouda, 919 So. 2d at 2......
  • Williams v. Dep't of Human Servs., 2011–CA–01742–COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 18 Junio 2013
    ...abused his discretion, was manifestly wrong [or] clearly erroneous, or [applied] an erroneous legal standard[.]” Walton v. Snyder, 984 So.2d 343, 347 (¶ 10) (Miss.Ct.App.2007) (quoting Kilpatrick v. Kilpatrick, 732 So.2d 876, 880 (¶ 13) (Miss.1999)). “In the area of divorce and child suppor......
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    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 27 Noviembre 2012
    ...under Rule 60(b)(6) cannot be based upon a reason which may be found under the first five subsections of the rule.” Walton v. Snyder, 984 So.2d 343, 351 (¶ 24) (Miss.Ct.App.2007) (citing Mitchell v. Nelson, 830 So.2d 635, 639 (¶ 9) (Miss.2002)). In her Rule 60(b) motion, Powell essentially ......
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    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 18 Agosto 2009
    ...(10th Cir.1985) (citation omitted). A motion based upon fraud on the court must be brought within a reasonable time. Walton v. Snyder, 984 So.2d 343, 350-51 (¶¶ 21-23) (Miss.Ct.App.2007). Fraud on an adverse party is found where only one witness commits perjury. Tirouda, 919 So.2d at 216(¶ ......
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