OF JUDGMENT: 03/16/2016
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. H. DAVID CLARK II JUDGE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: THOMAS L. TULLOS
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: WILLIAM B. JACOB JOSEPH A. KIERONSKI
JR. DANIEL P. SELF JR.
Thomas L. Harris ("Leon")-alleging that a material
change in circumstances had occurred since the judgment of
divorce from his former spouse, Susan Harris-filed a
complaint against Susan, seeking a reduction or termination
of his alimony obligation that he agreed to in the
property-settlement agreement (Agreement) that was approved
in the judgment of divorce. Rather than reducing or
terminating Leon's alimony obligation, the chancellor
held that Susan's Social Security benefits that were
derivative of Leon's Social Security earning credits
would be credited against Leon's monthly alimony
obligation. Susan now appeals, and argues that the chancellor
erred when he credited the Social Security payments against
Leon's alimony obligation and modified the Agreement
without requiring Leon to prove that a material change in
circumstances had occurred. We find that the chancellor did
not err as to either issue; consequently, we affirm.
Susan and Leon were married on July 14, 1979. They sought an
irreconcilable- difference divorce, and entered into an
Agreement, wherein Leon agreed to pay $2, 755 per month to
Susan as periodic alimony. The Agreement was incorporated
into the divorce, which became final on February 25, 2011.
The Agreement did not address any contingency with respect to
the alimony other than that it would end at Susan's
remarriage or death.
After the divorce, Susan filed for and obtained derivative
Social Security retirement benefits in the amount of $1, 035
per month based on Leon's earnings record with the Social
Security Administration. On January 21, 2015, Susan filed a
complaint to review the health provision of the Agreement. On
March 5, 2015, Leon filed his answer, which contained a
motion to dismiss and a counterclaim to reduce or terminate
his alimony payments in light of the fact that Susan had
begun drawing Social Security benefits off of his earnings
On March 8, 2016, the chancellor granted Leon's Rule
12(b)(6) motion and held a hearing on his counterclaim. The
parties stipulated that Susan was receiving $1, 035 per month
in Social Security benefits that were derivative of
Leon's work history. Leon argued that he should be given
credit for the $1, 035 being paid to Susan by the Social
Security Administration. Leon maintained that he should be
required to pay Susan only an additional $1, 720 per month,
since she was already drawing $1, 035 per month from Social
Security as a result of his earnings record. The chancellor
agreed and entered judgment in his favor. Susan now appeals.
This Court in Russell acknowledged that the standard
of review in domestic-relations matters is "extremely
We will not disturb a chancellor's findings unless the
findings were manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous or unless
the chancellor applied an erroneous legal standard.
Id. Where the record contains substantial evidence
to support the ...