Court grants look at Monroe divorce dispute

By Patsy R. Brumfield

Daily Journal

A Monroe County man will get a re-examination of an unfiled divorce agreement, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed.

In a unanimous vote in the 2005 case Thursday, the state’s highest court ordered a reconsideration of Donald R. Brewer’s appeal over a chancery court ruling that he was in contempt of court for not following an initial settlement, even though he and his former wife agreed to a negotiated change.

Brewer’s attorneys, Shane McLaughlin and Nicole McLaughlin of Tupelo, urged the court to hear his issues, saying an earlier Court of Appeals ruling in favor of Chancellor Talmadge Littlejohn’s decision – which uphold substantially higher financial support for ex-wife Penny Mathis Holliday – “is a death knell to settlements reached by mediation” in the state’s chancery courts.

When the couple divorced, Brewer agreed to custody of both sons with their mother and $1,185 per month child support.

Soon after, the older child moved in with his father and Brewer asked for modification of the custody agreement. Holliday disagreed.

After private mediation, they agreed to all issues and signed a Memorandum of Agreement, which included the custody split of sons and reduction of child support to $600 until the younger child was emancipated.

But for some reason, the agreed order was never presented for filing by the court.

The former couple continued to argue, ultimately into chancery court, where Littlejohn found Brewer in “willful and contumacious contempt” for failure to pay child support, entered a judgment for back support of $34,515 and granted the ex-wife $3,500 in attorneys fees.

Last March, the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the chancellor’s decision to cite Brewer for contempt and overlook the settlement agreement.

Brewer asks the supreme court to reverse the court of appeals.

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    “Equity looks to the intent, and will regard substance rather than form.” Judge V. A. Griffith…Herring v. Sutton, 86 Miss. 285, 38 So. 235 (1905); Griffith, § 39, p. 42, fn. 32