Posts Tagged ‘Divorce’

Do Chancery Judges Have a Sixth Sense?

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Before getting into the nitty-gritty details of my experiences with Mississippi Chancellors, I must say that we have a unique system to determine divorce and custody matters in our state.  Only 5 states in the U.S. have chancery court systems. They are based on English common-law and principles of equity (fairness). Without a doubt, the big difference between chancery and other courts is that a chancellor is not only the final interpreter of law on point, but also the ultimate fact-finder.  This requires playing somewhat of a “dual role” in making determinations that affect not only a divorcing couple, but their children and extended families. So, after 1,300+ domestic cases, do I believe that chancellors have a heightened ability to sense what is not directly in front of them? Yes, and it is largely because they have significant experience in detecting the motivations of those who appear in their courtrooms.  

When in court, attorneys are commonly making points based upon evidence that can be seen and heard.  Most of the proof that we present on a daily basis consists of not only the testimony of witnesses, but video, photographs, documents, and audio recording.  While these are what I would call “empirical” evidence, they are not the only consideration for a fact finder. For instance, let us take a brief look at criminal jury trials.  They are a contrast to chancery proceedings in many ways. The judge has a singular role: interpreter of law. The jury has one role as well: find the facts. That fact-finding is not exactly an exact science.  It is highly nuanced…subjective as all get-out. Reasonable minds can disagree and often do. After hearing testimony and seeing all of the evidence, we can and will come to different, often ant-opposite of conclusions.  That is simple human nature.

Chancellors are the equivalent of both the judge and jury.  Not only do they interpret law, they are the sole fact-finder in divorce and custody actions.  They have to rely on their God-given instincts in close cases. Having seen the inner-workings of the chancery system in Mississippi, I can without question say that chancery judges tend to have a heightened intuition.  It is necessary when determining who is truthful and who is not. That gut instinct decides the outcome of so many close cases. Most of them are close, or they tend to settle prior to trial. Think of all the times you likely disagreed with a jury.  Without pointing to any specific cases, you can surely name a few of your own.

Most divorces and child custody matters are close calls.  Many lack any concrete proof at all. There are almost never any smoking guns or red hands to be caught.  The proof is almost always what I would call luke-warm…even circumstantial. The best approach in any chancery court is to build credibility by telling the truth.  Consistency goes a long way, as it should. Chancellors are pretty good human lie detectors.  

My advice to anyone going through a difficult custody case, divorce, or visitation issue is to be cool-headed and calm.  Be consistent and voice your concern for your children. Do not worry about shaming your spouse, your ex. It will not build credibility with the judge.  Your testimony will be weaker than it could have been when the focus is taken off of your kids. It is always better not to voice the raw emotion that a breakup causes.  The children are what matters now, and the judge could care less how much you may dislike your ex. They hear all too much of it on a daily basis. It gets tiresome, and quickly.

If you end up in court over a disagreement about your kids, your finances, do yourself a favor and relax.  Chancery judges love nothing more than a reasonable, calm litigant who is able to have a laser focus on what matters and ignore what does not.  Kids need structure and stability to thrive. They need a routine that is predictable and not jolted by emotion. If you are able to tap into this thinking, you just increased your odds of obtaining a positive outcome in a tough life moment.

Matthew Poole is a Single Father and Jackson Mississippi Family Lawyer, Recipient of the National Family Lawyer Association Top 10 Award in 2015 and 2018 and Finalist of the Steen Reynolds and Dalehite Trial Competition.  He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 2004.

Who is Edgar Egbert, the Madison County Shooter?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Last week, Deputy Brad Sullivan of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department was shot through the head with an AR-15 style rifle after police deployed stop sticks to prevent a speeding Jeep from injuring the public on Highway 16 near Canton.  It all stemmed from a domestic situation that resulted in a kidnapping, according to officials with Madison County. While the details have yet to fully emerge, we are all praying for his recovery while in the line of duty. He is a true hero for protecting the public.  God bless him. So many questions linger, but the primary suspect, Edgar James Egbert, is not saying anything, or at least hasn’t in his court appearances while being denied bond. He is probably wise to remain silent.

I know Edgar.  I was his divorce attorney in 2017-2018.  While I am not his biggest fan, he deserves a fair hearing despite his alleged actions.  Edgar is the father of five precious kids. He is now remarried. His new wife was incredibly excited when he popped the question.  That was barely a year ago. His life has been complex, especially after a divorce that had no easy end in sight. They rarely do.   

One of my first experiences with Edgar occurred shortly before Christmas 2017 at the Madison Chancery Court.  Judge Cynthia Brewer held a temporary hearing (which I often refer to as a “stop-gap” measure) and nothing particularly unusual transpired.  Visitation was addressed, some custody and child support was ordered as well. Edgar’s eldest child was about 13 at that time. He had moved to Georgia with his mom and four siblings a few months prior.  My initial read on Edgar was actually quite positive. I felt strongly that he had a soft heart.

After the hearing, Edgar went to his black Jeep, the one involved in the chase last week, and retrieved several presents for his kids.  He approached his son, who is a tall, handsome, quiet young man, and, smiling, handed him several gifts for he and his four sisters. Edgar was calm.  He seemed very caring, and I nearly teared up because I could feel the pain he was in at that moment. He had not seen his kids in months. I appreciated his gesture.  His eldest son said nothing. It was not clear to me whether this was an alienated child or one rightfully bitter at his dad. What I witnessed later made me form a fairly clear opinion.  

At trial several months later, details began to emerge.  I represented Edgar because I truly did, and do still believe that he missed and loved his babies.  My heart went out to him. The tragic events of September, 2019 seem to have appeared out of nowhere.  Although I could see his frustrations were mounting as a displaced dad, I did not see a cop-shooter in the making.  He did, and still does love those children. I am sure of it. Even though, if found guilty, there is no excuse on earth for his behavior, I wonder to myself if it all could have been prevented.  There are no easy answers.

I recently saw that, since my representation of Edgar, he has fallen far behind on child support payments.  His ex-wife, dejected and appearing beaten down during trial, does not work. She home schools the children.  She is reliant upon the good-will of others and her church to survive. So are the kids. Edgar was ordered to pay about $1,100. per month in support.  That’s about $220 per child. Any of you reading this can do the math. Fifty bucks a week doesn’t get a child far. And that amount was not being paid. Attorney’s fees have since mounted for he and his ex-wife.  This event has altered too many innocent lives. He was likely facing incarceration for the contempt that was imminent. There was really no path short of winning the lottery to solve his money problems, they grew exponentially and no end was in sight.  It is hard to ignore the financial roots that grew into this nightmare.  

This is a tragedy for too many reasons.  I know Brad Sullivan, if only vaguely. We must never forget that he likely will never be quite the same, but we can pray and hope for he and his family.  A headshot from any firearm (.223 Remington is more powerful than almost all handgun rounds) is incredibly horrific. It is amazing he is alive. He is one tough cop.   

Edgar’s wife and kids are also victims.  They will likely never have the present love of dad again.  He may very well still love them, but it is tough to see that love being easily reciprocated.  Edgar may also be a victim of his own missteps. While I want it clear that he deserves the presumption of innocence, the benefit of the doubt, the facts do not bear well for him at this point in my estimation.

While I cannot share every detail, I will say that the testimony regarding Edgar’s violent tendencies and drug abuse, marijuana in particular, has left me on one side of the legalization debate.  I also have formed a better understanding of the emotional turmoil a divorce can cause. A parent moving far, far away to escape an unhappy marriage is equivalent to a domestic nuclear explosion. The emotions are difficult to handle.  The pain is palpable, even to the attorneys.  

In the end, I can only ask that you pray not only for Brad, but for the children and family of Edgar Egbert and even Edgar himself.  It is a shame that this has happened and we cannot turn back time. Hopefully we can all learn something about the value of our personal relationships. When all the dust clears, hopefully we will love the ones we are with, even if just a little bit more.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Family Attorney.  He was admitted in 2004 to the Mississippi Bar.

Modification Mayhem; How to Steer Clear

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Child custody modification cases are always challenging for a variety of reasons.  First, it is important to recognize that Chancellors are inclined not to “rock the boat” by making drastic decisions about child placement without very good reasons.  They, as they should, need a parent seeking modification to present overwhelming reasons for a sudden change that affects every aspect of a child’s life.  Haphazard, swift decisions regarding children are frowned upon and avoided at all costs. 

I want to focus on a common scenario which occurs and attempt to illustrate the divergent paths it presents.  Quite often, a child turns 12 and is able to voice a preference to the court about where they want to live.  Although they do not get to “choose” (a common misconception), their voice plays a critical role in triggering and potentially effectuating a child-custody claim.  Although the maturity level of the child is not a technical factor in the weight of their preference, it will always play a critical role in the outcome of the modification claim.

I want to share with you a custody horror story, at least from the perspective of a former client.  Often the best lessons are had by failure, not success.  Many years ago, I was hired to prosecute a child custody claim in Rankin County, Mississippi on behalf of a mom whose son had recently turned 12.  We all met at my office and the child was quite clear about the strength of his desire to live with his mom.  I did not question his sincerity for a moment. 

Fast forward several months and we finally have our day in court at a final hearing (trial).  I called the young man to the stand and he performed as I expected.  When my opposing counsel had his shot at making his case, the child fell apart.  It went something like this:  “Young man, why is it that you want to live with your mom all of the sudden?”.  A fair question, right?  The boy then said, more or less, “My dad makes me go to bed at 10 o’clock and eat grilled chicken and vegetables.  I hate vegetables.  When I am with my mom she lets me do pretty much whatever I want.  I can have as much pizza as I want and I can play video games while she’s busy doing other stuff.  My dad is just too strict.”  Whew.  I heard the sound of my case deflate right in front of me.  The odds of winning were nil.  My client was upset and so was I, but he was just a kid after all.

I have seen first-hand how children will attempt to please both parents.  I have had clients hire me on modifications of custody only to realize later that their child was telling their ex that they wanted to stay with them.  Kids have a natural defense mechanism to make both parents happy.  They will tell both that they want to be with them.  It borders on dishonesty, but for the love of God, they are only kids and do not understand adult problems.  This is the way that they cope.  It is frustrating and can cost a client several wasted dollars, but nonetheless I understand the plight of the children torn between two parents that they dearly love.  We must, as the adults in the room, understand how to avoid this mayhem in the first place.  Our children deserve it. 

My advice is simple.  The mature children are going to be far more likely to stay with the parent they prefer.  I doubt many of them are 12.  Once a child has consistently voiced a mature, rational desire to stay with you, consider speaking to a lawyer about a change of custody.  Chancellors are privy to the fact that children are not always able to decide what is best for them.  You can avoid wasting thousands on a failed modification claim by allowing your child to come to their own conclusion. Be patient and kind.  Remember that they are feeling pressure from every direction.  And in the end, respect them and their innocence.  One day they will face adult problems.  It is your job, as a parent, to make it later than sooner.

Matthew Poole is a single father and Jackson, Mississippi Custody and Divorce Attorney with 16 years of experience.  He has managed over 1,300 domestic cases.

DIVORCE RATES DIVING?

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

I know what you are thinking, and I can already say that this trend occurs likely not for the reasons you may imagine. Unless you are a sociologist or simply very in-tune with social trends, it may surprise you that the real reasons, or at least the primary drivers of this trend, are not so obvious until we look at ourselves, our friends, and our families.

So many of the younger generation suffered through their parents’ divorces. They witnessed first-hand the turmoil and confusion that impacts everyone involved. They were often more victimized by their parents’ tit-for-tat than the parents themselves. Divorce is significantly stressful for kids. They become front and center in the turmoil. It should come as no surprise that they are more apt to wait before tying the knot. We certainly cannot blame them.

There is also a second driver of divorce rates diving. Millenials are not as financially well-off as their parents were at the same age. Although incomes may be similar (adjusted for inflation), costs of living are much higher. They are purchasing homes much later, have less money in the bank, and upward trending daily expenses. When you hear about inflation in our country hovering between 2 and 3 percent, ask yourself if things you buy on a daily basis (consumer goods) do not seem to have skyrocketed in price in the past decade. It sure feels that way to me.

Another factor lesser discussed has driven the divorce rate down. Here it is: People simply aren’t getting married at the rate they did in the past. I ran a simple Google search of “marriage and divorce rates U.S.”, and the results were surprisingly dramatic. If you click on “images” at the top results bar, you can visualize the strong trend in several telling graphs and charts. It seems to me that after World War II, young men returning home in droves altered our societal landscape. They were eager to start lives and have families. Their children were generally born in the mid 1950’s until the early 1970’s. Those former children are now in their fifties and even late sixties. Time sure does fly. Many (most) of you reading this are their kids. Theirs was a great generation in a very different time.

I also see the impact of social media, a term unknown to our dad, mom, aunts and uncles. They did not know that it would ever dominate our society the way it does today. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so many others consume our daily lives. I believe they are great tools when used for the right reasons, but our communication with others we hardly know can also interfere with our most personal relationships.

We, as a country, have pushed the limits of change in so many ways. Time spent with family is too easily frittered away. Bank accounts are stretched to their limits. Daily pressures are at an all time high, and memories of being a child trapped in the eye of a stormy divorce still linger.

In the end, the best ways to avoid a divorce are more obvious than you realize. Sometimes we simply need to be reminded of what we already know.

Matthew Poole is a single father and Jackson, Mississippi Family Attorney. He was admitted to practice in 2004.

Avoiding Disaster: Divorce and Mortgages

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Are you preparing for a divorce and have a mortgage on a home or other property?  Valuing these assets is fundamental in order to ensure that you receive a fair shake in severing your marriage.  What common issues need to be clear moving forward on a path to becoming single again? There are several, but the mortgage holder is almost always the key to knowing who should stay in the home and who goes.  Unless you want to be roommates with your ex for the foreseeable future, follow this advice.  

A retired Chancellor from Rankin County, Honorable John Grant, used to say repeatedly that “Two can live cheaper than one”. The reason that credit bureaus will ding your score for a divorce is quite clear:  unless your income increases substantially, a divorce will always negatively impact your overall financial health. When two people own a home in a community property state such as Mississippi, they have essentially formed a joint business venture.  When the home is mortgaged in both parties’ names, both incomes are considered by the bank in determining whether or not to grant the loan application and provide credit. They are not particularly keen on allowing an otherwise responsible obligor (or “customer” in bankspeak) off of the hook.  Why should they be? They have a responsibility to their shareholders to ensure investment in mortgage assets are repaid at as high a rate as possible.

Very many divorced people ask me after the fact why it is that they cannot repurchase another home.  Unfortunately they have almost always suffered from poor lawyering and improper preplanning for severing marital ties.  The gist of their now major disaster is that their attorney did not make adequate provision in the dissolution agreement for the marital home.  They simply stated that one party, we will just say the wife for example, keeps use and possession of the home. Frequently a wife with children will stay in the home if she can afford it.  So the story usually goes as follows…Husband is on the mortgage. Husband assumes that he is off the hook for liability with the bank. Husband applies for a loan, only to be rejected due to a poor-debt to income ratio.  This all could have been very easily avoided.

A simple provision that stated, for instance, “Wife agrees to obtain separate financing for the marital home within 60 days or to list the home for sale at or below current appraisal value” would have done the trick.  Sale price and who decides upon that price can also, and should be laid out clearly prior to divorce. It still amazes me that some lesser experienced lawyers get their clients stuck in a hellish quagmire such as this.  It can and should be avoided with some degree of foresight. Fixing this issue can cost far more than doing it correctly the first time around. I have seen people that have unfortunately spent fifty of more hours in attorney time to clean up this type of mess.  

In the end, be sure that your attorney has discussed with you the best path to rectify any outstanding financial obligations, especially your mortgage.  Ensure that no assumptions are made moving forward. Ask your lawyer every question related to protecting your future and that of your kids. And after the emotional haze of divorce clears, never forget that two really can live cheaper than one.


Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Ms custody and divorce lawyer and a 2015 and 2018 N.F.L.A. top ten domestic lawyer, 2019 Birdeye top family attorney, and 2003 finalist of the Steen Reynolds trial competition at the University of Mississippi School of Law.  He was a Second-Century Scholar at Millsaps College in 2001.

Advice to Women: How to Spot a Bad Dad

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

One of the most powerful drivers of domestic litigation, mom filing suit against dad or vice-versa, is the desire by both parents to receive or avoid child support obligations.  The typical, let’s say father, will usually bend over backwards to avoid paying child-support, because it is a 21 year obligation not easily dispatched. Sometimes, and more often than not, these dads look for creative ways to thwart that obligation by seeking joint custody of their child.  Do they really want to spend close to half of the time with the little one? Doubtful, at best. Their answer? “I want joint custody”. For a seasoned lawyer, we all see through this veil of nonsense.  

It is clear that Mississippi law prefers parents to agree to custodial arrangements, in large part to take a hefty load off of the backs of our strained judicial system.  Although the consequence is not intentional, many domestic lawyers get paid large sums to fight for “joint” custody for a parent who simply wants to avoid child support obligations.  So, let’s explore the impact of one child on an average man’s balance sheet, monthly.  

Per capita income in Mississippi for a single man is about $33,000.  After mandatory deductions, that number shrinks to about approximately $26,600.  That is only a little over $2,200. per month. Now, if said average income man has a child and owes support, he will owe 14% of that $2,200 in support, or about $320 per month.  Ouch to him. This figure does not include extracurricular activities, day-care, or medical and dental costs. Kids are not, and never have been cheap. If you thought that having a dog was expensive, you were wrong.  

Why are so many men pushing the narrative of “joint” custody?  Are they really concerned about being heavily involved in their childrens’ lives?  Most often they are not, but there are the rare few great men who are not as concerned about paying child support as they are about being involved in child-rearing.  These men are uncommon, but they do exist. My experience allows me to spot the fake “great dads” rather quickly. It is always about the money for them, not concern for their children and their rearing.  

Standard visitation is almost always going to be par for the course.  Judges are not usually willing, absent unusual circumstances, to rule for joint physical custody of children, and the reason is patently clear.  Chancery court judges want finality, they do not want litigants coming back every time someone moves or changes school district. Who can blame them?  They seek an efficient system no more or less than anyone else would. Joint physical child custody is about as difficult to manage as two people sharing a car.  It doesn’t work, at least not well.  

My advice is simple.  If you are the more engaged, loving, capable parent, fight for your children.  Be there to raise them in your light. Do not be intimidated by threats of “joint custody”, it is often just a scheme to avoid child support.  Trust your God-given instincts. If he truly does care enough, joint physical custody is always a consideration. If he is looking to save a few bucks, fight at every corner for your little ones.  (Sorry guys, but this is the way it plays out 90+ percent of the time, and I am one of you). In the end, good will always defeat bad intention, but you have to muster the will to fight for what is right.


Matthew Poole is a 2015 and 2018 N.F.L.A. Mississippi top ten domestic attorney, 2019 Birdeye Top Mississippi Famliy Lawyer, and 2004 Steen Reynolds Trial Competition Finalist.  He lives in Northeast Jackson with his 9 year old son, Lucas.

Second and Third Marriages, an Uphill Battle

Friday, August 16th, 2019

It is relatively well-known that all time divorce rates (overall, not for a specific time period) generally hover around 40-45%.  National statistics indicate that 1st marriages have an all-time divorce rate of 42%, (and 49% in 2018). Second marriages have an overall divorce rate of 60%, and 3rd marriages’ rate of marital dissolution is a staggering 73% since the time this country began taking statistics in the mid 1920’s, and they are slowly creeping upward.  Why is it that subsequent marriages are so difficult, even more than the first? There are never simple answers, but there are several observations that may explain this trend.  

Behind every statistic is an underlying cause (or “root” cause as the older generation used to say), and usually the cause is multifaceted.  Not one single factor can be said to contribute to the phenomenon that first marriages are (believe it or not for those of you seeking divorce) more likely to succeed than a marriage after a divorce or multiple divorces.  The message I would like to convey to those of you seeking a divorce is best said by remembering the old saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”. 

My observation is simple….those who abruptly sever marital bonds are essentially more likely to fail for their inability to stand firm with the partner they chose in youth, therefore complicating their lives.  The complexity of any social interaction is a strong predictor of the likelihood of its failure. Simplicity is not always a bad thing, a concept that is often lost in an era when we seek the newest, most complex, difficult to engineer piece of smart device in our cars, homes, and lives.  We live in a society that prefers to throw the broken away and replace it rather than considering whether a fix is possible.

When I first began my legal career as an attorney in 2004, the head of my division told me on the first day, “Matthew, we follow the kiss method here, which means we keep it simple stupid”. Those words are not only important in litigation, they are tantamount to a lynchpin in marriage.  If you realize that life complexity will likely cause future dramatics, you have already made the first step to saving a broken marriage or making a good decision to re-marry. When people marry and have pre-existing legal obligations from a prior marriage such as child support, alimony, and visitation or custody issues in-tow, they have complicated their lives significantly with a remarriage.  Wiping the slate clean is seldom a possibility because our lives are complex, and so are our relationships.  

In sum, it appears to me that the more social issues one has to deal with, the more likelihood of divorce.  A system that has more moving parts has more parts that may break. Marriage is no different. I want to make very clear that there is always hope, but to any person considering a divorce, please know that it does not get easier the second time around.  If you do divorce and look to be remarried, consider all of the complexities you will both bring to your second or third marriage, lay them all out on the proverbial table with honesty, and have a simple, clear gameplan to deal with the challenges ahead.  It is very much an uphill battle, but it can be won. However, in the end, maybe simple really is better.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Domestic Attorney and single father.  He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 2004.

The Zen of Marriage and Divorce?

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

Years ago when I was in high school, the alternative rock band Bush had a song called “everything zen” that was popular amongst teens and twenty-somethings in an era dominated by the likes of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.  Its seems like a million eons back to me at this point.  The song was my first introduction to the concept of zen, and I had absolutely no clue what in the world “zen” was.  After studying the zen philosophy and practicing divorce law for close to 2 decades, Bush had it right, everything is zen…even marriage and divorce.

If you want a quick description of my interpretation of zen, it is well summed with an acceptance of a concept embodied in a popular zen quote, which reads “the delusion of humanity is to believe that I am in here and you are out there”.  What is good for your spouse is most likely good for you and your children.  Your well being and their well being are actually, believe it or not, the same thing.  Marriages often fail because of the inability of one or both parties to recognize that their happiness is to the benefit of their spouse.  Many conceptual similarities are found in the reading of the Holy Bible.

This will be a short blog simply because it is confusing.  It requires some degree of taking everything you thought you knew and forgetting it all.  We are all selfish to some extent or another.  Letting go of that is the only thing that will make your marriage last. 

My advice to you if you are considering a divorce is to be the one who sees your equality in marriage.  If you let your guard down, take a leap of faith, remember the words spoken in your vows, you have done all you can and have earned a divorce.  You cannot control others, so start with YOU first.  In the words of Bush, everything is truly, well, zen.  If it does not work and divorce is inevitable, call or email us anytime.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Domestic Lawyer and a Single Father

Divorce Quick Guide…..the “Cliff Notes”

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Here is a quick guide as to divorce grounds in Mississippi……this list includes all recognized grounds and basic judicial interpretation of those reasons for legal rights to divorcing. Sometimes several are applicable to divorcing spouses.

FAULT-BASED GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE (Miss. Code Ann. 93-5-1)

Natural Impotency……..The Mississippi Supreme Court has held that divorce on this ground was not permitted where a woman’s physical condition made intercourse painful and where she pursued treatment. Sarphie v. Sarphie, 177 So. 358 (Miss. 1937

Adultery………Adultery is “voluntary sexual intercourse on the part of either spouse with a person other than his or her own spouse.” Owen v. Gerity, 422 So. 2d 284 (Miss. 1982). Adultery may be shown by circumstantial proof or a generally adulterous nature, combined with evidence of a reasonable opportunity to satisfy the infatuation of proclivity. McAdory v. McAdory, 608 So.2d 695 (Miss.1992). Direct evidence is not required. No need to have concrete proof!

Being sentenced to a penitentiary………..The statute was, several years ago, amended to read “sentenced to any penitentiary.”

Desertion….willful, continued, obstinate desertion for the marital space or domicile for a period of one year.

Constructive Desertion (as an option where physical desertion is not available)………Mississippi recognizes constructive desertion (where on spouse engages in conduct that forces the other to leave the marital home or renders the continuation of the marriage “unendurable”. (A subjective standard).

Refusal to have sexual relations (as a form of constructive desertion)…… This must be long-standing and without good cause, such as physical pain from intercourse.

Refusal to reconcile (as a form of constructive desertion and/or desertion).

Desertion may occur when on spouse leaves the marital home, then makes a good faith effort at reconciliation and the other spouse rejects the offer. Day v. Day. 501So.2d 353 (Miss. 1987).

Habitual drunkenness……..This one needs little explanation.

Habitual use of opium or “other like drug”….note that the Court of Appeals has broadened the definition of other “like” drugs. Marijuana is now considered a “like” drug by our courts due to the effects of its use.

Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment………The courts state that the cruelty required is not such as merely to render the marriage undesirable or unpleasant. Where both parties file on this ground, the chancellor must determine who is more at fault and grant the divorce to the other party. Hyer v. Hyer, 636 So.2d 381 (Miss. 1994).

Incurable Insanity at the time of the marriage, if the complainant was without knowledge of the insanity.

Marriage to some other person at the time of the purported marriage.

Pregnancy of the wife by another at the time of the marriage, without the husband’s knowledge.

Relation within the prohibited degrees of kindred, (a.k.a. incest).

Defenses to Divorce

Recrimination………Recrimination is the doctrine that if both spouses are guilty of fault, neither is entitled to divorce. Until 1964, this doctrine required that a Chancellor refuse to grant a divorce where both spouses were at fault. Miss. Code Ann 93-5-3 now provides that it is not mandatory that a Chancellor deny a divorce, even though the evidence may establish recrimination.

Insanity……..Insanity may be a defense to divorce based upon adultery, desertion, or cruelty.

Condonation……….Condonation is forgiveness of the marital fault by the wronged spouse, with the understanding that the conduct is not to recur. It is conditional, based upon the “good behavior” of the spouse at fault. If the conduct recurs, the defense is removed. Condonation may result from express forgiveness, or be implied from a resumption of the marital relationship after knowledge of the conduct.

Mere resumption of residence without resumption of sexual relations does not necessarily indicate condonation. Cherry v. Cherry, 593 So.2d 13 (Miss.1991).

Connivance………Connivance is one spouse’s implicit consent to the wrongful conduct of the other. The defense of connivance arises from the fault-based notion of a “wronged” spouse; if the innocent spouse did not object to the conduct, he or she has not been wronged. It typically applies to adultery claims.

Collusion……..Collusion occurs when the parties agree to frustrate the divorce procedure in some way, by creating grounds, or by agreeing not to defend a case, MS Code Ann 93-5-7 requires that for every divorce except those on the ground of irreconcilable differences, the parties must attach an affidavit stating that the action is not the basis of collusion.

Provocation……..This is a bar to divorce where the complainant provoked the conduct to the wrongdoing spouse most likely be used in response to a divorce action based upon desertion. This act allows a stay of proceeding for persons in the military and must be granted unless it can be shown that the applicant’s rights will not be materially affected by the proceeding.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, MS family lawyer specializing in custody and custody modification matters. He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 2004.

Do This, Not That…Common Custody Mistakes

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

“Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas”.

Eleanor Roosevelt

We receive about 4,500 phone calls a year, plus or minus. In 16 years of practice, my assistants and I have received prospective client intakes from more people than the population of a medium-sized city. Almost all of the calls have a common denominator; an inability to communicate with the “other” parent. It can be easily avoided…here is a basic blueprint. I hope it is helpful.

Every life struggle needs a hero. Why should it not be you? As a single parent, I have seen these challenges first hand. As a domestic lawyer, I have fought these battles for my clients just the same. So here are my thoughts and impressions about how to proceed when child custody is front and center in your life…and your kids’ lives even more importantly. So here is the entree’; what to do and what to avoid. If you follow this advice, parenting still won’t be easy, but life will be better for your children.

DO- Keep open communication with the other parent about childrens’ activities and progress.

DO NOT- Cut off your kids ability to talk to dad/mom or keep them in the dark. Children build self-esteem through belief that they have great parents…two of them.

DO- Remember that children are innocent.

DO NOT- Believe they understand adult problems, emotions, or opinions.

DO- Remember that your child is one-half of you, one-half of another.

DO NOT- Think that your child isn’t hurting because their other parent is not around…even if it is by their own bad choice.

DO- Realize that kids need love, even if the person loving them has serious flaws.

DO NOT- Require perfection from your ex…we all have flaws, but loving of our children is what matters most, your relationship may have been a simple moment in time, after all.

DO- Make sure to tell your kids that you love them, so does dad…or mom…and grandma.

DO NOT- Tell them that they were abandoned, that you are the hero, that you saved them from misery and suffering.

DO- Ask your children what they need from your ex, be it a new toy, a way to communicate, or a simple showing of affection.

DO NOT- Tell your children how you feel about the person who may have broken your heart, damaged your soul.

DO- Make sure your children enjoy being a child…it is a precious thing we all remember dearly.

DO NOT- Let them feel the real life burdens all adults feel every day.

Last thought…if all else fails, always take pride that you did your best and never gave up on the children brought into an imperfect, but beautiful world. Any judge will see you for your strengths first. That is the way it should be. In a custody battle, nice guys and gals finish first.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, MS family lawyer specializing in custody and custody modification matters. He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 2004.