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McAdams v. McAdams

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 4, 2018

JOHN T. MCADAMS APPELLANT/ CROSS-APPELLEE
v.
JULIE F. MCADAMS APPELLEE/ CROSS-APPELLANT

         DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/26/2017

          HARRISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT, HON. J. LARRY BUFFINGTON JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: PAUL SNOW

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: S. CHRISTOPHER FARRIS

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. In this appeal, John McAdams claims the Harrison County Chancery Court erred when it did not terminate his periodic alimony obligation based on Julie McAdams's relationship with A.J. Raymond. Alternatively, John argues that his alimony obligation should be reduced because Julie's financial position has improved and his has not. Finally, John claims the chancellor should not have awarded Julie $1, 000 in attorney's fees. Julie cross-appeals and claims the chancellor should have awarded her more attorney's fees. Finding no error, we affirm the chancery court's judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. John and Julie were married for approximately thirty years. They divorced in June 2005 due to irreconcilable differences. This appeal centers on John's resulting obligation to pay Julie $2, 000 per month in periodic alimony.

         ¶3. In February 2017, John petitioned to terminate his alimony obligation and alleged that Julie was cohabiting and in a de facto marriage with Raymond. Failing that, John claimed that his alimony obligation should be reduced due to Julie's improved financial position. John also wanted Julie to reimburse him for $192, 000 in alimony that he paid after she began working.

         ¶4. Julie contested John's petition and filed a counterclaim for increased alimony. She also argued that John was in contempt because he stopped paying alimony when he filed his petition. Finally, Julie asked for any attorney's fees that she would incur while contesting John's petition and proving her contempt allegation.

         ¶5. At trial, the chancellor heard testimony from Julie, John, and Raymond. Through a stipulation, John presented evidence gathered by two private investigators who periodically drove by Julie's condo in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Raymond's house in Maurepas, Louisiana, between January 17 and March 6, 2017. The evidence presented at trial will be discussed in greater detail below.

         ¶6. The chancellor denied John's petition to terminate alimony without commenting on his cohabitation and de facto marriage claims. The chancellor also denied Julie's request for increased alimony. Although the chancellor initially reduced John's monthly alimony obligation by $150 because Julie had begun receiving social security benefits derived from her own earnings, the chancellor subsequently changed his mind incident to Julie's post-trial motion. After finding that John had "wrongfully" deposited two alimony payments in the chancery court's registry instead of paying them to Julie, the chancellor awarded Julie $1, 000 of the $7, 500 in attorney's fees that she requested. John appeals, and Julie cross-appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Termination of Alimony

         ¶7. John claims the chancellor should have terminated his alimony obligation because Julie and Raymond were cohabiting or involved in a de facto marriage. As mentioned above, the chancellor denied John's petition without otherwise commenting on his cohabitation and de facto marriage allegations. Even so, "[w]ith respect to issues of fact where the chancellor made no specific finding," we assume that he "resolved all such fact issues in favor of the appellee, or at least in a manner that is consistent with the decree." Smith v. Smith, 545 So.2d 725, 727 (Miss. 1989).

         ¶8. John bore the burden of proving that "there has been a material or substantial change in circumstances since the divorce." Hughes v. Hughes, 186 So.3d 394, 397 (¶6) (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). Alimony may be modified when there is "mutual support between the recipient . . . and another individual which alters the recipient['s] . . . financial needs." Scharwath v. Scharwath, 702 So.2d 1210, 1211 (¶6) (Miss. 1997). "The alimony recipient's cohabitation with or de facto marriage to another may be a change in circumstances justifying the termination of alimony." Hughes, 186 So.3d at 397 (ΒΆ6) (internal quotation marks omitted). "The chancellor's ...


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