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Burrow v. Burrow

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

September 18, 2014

PATRICK A. BURROW
v.
RACHEL L. BURROW

Argued June 11, 2014.

Patricia V. Shadis, Esq., Newcastle, for appellant Patrick A. Burrow.

William M. Avantaggio, Esq., Damariscotta, for appellee Rachel L. Burrow.

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, SILVER, MEAD, GORMAN, and JABAR, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1105

SAUFLEY, C.J.

[¶1] Patrick A. Burrow appeals from a divorce judgment and rulings on post-judgment motions for findings of fact and

Page 1106

conclusions of law entered by the District Court (Wiscasset, J.D. Kennedy, J. ). Patrick argues that the court misapplied the law, erred in reaching factual findings, and abused its discretion when it set apart to Rachel L. Burrow $75,000 of the value of the parties' marital real property before it equally divided the rest of the value. We discern no legal error, but, because of a factual error, we vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] The court found the following facts, which, except where noted, are supported by competent evidence in the record and are not in dispute. See Lesko v. Stanislaw, 2014 ME 3, ¶ 17, 86 A.3d 14. The parties met in Florida, and Patrick moved into Rachel's home there in 2000. Patrick and Rachel's son was born on October 1, 2001. In 2002, the parties moved into a rental property in Maine. Sometime thereafter, Rachel's parents retired to Rachel's Florida property, and Rachel deeded the Florida property to herself, her parents, and Patrick.

[¶3] In 2003, Rachel's grandmother offered to sell her home in Maine to Rachel for $75,000. Rachel believed that the price was discounted because Rachel's grandmother wanted to keep the property in the family.[1] Rachel purchased the property by executing a $75,000 mortgage to her grandmother in August 2003. Her grandmother sold the property to Rachel on the condition that the grandmother be allowed to live in the house for the rest of her life. Rachel made payments on the $75,000 mortgage directly to her grandmother. At first, Rachel, Patrick, and their son lived in another building on the property while Rachel's grandmother lived in the house, but they eventually moved into the house.

[¶4] Rachel's grandmother died in December 2004. Rachel and Patrick were married in January 2007. Between the 2003 purchase of the home and the parties' marriage in 2007, both Rachel and Patrick contributed funds and labor to improve the property. In 2007, after the parties were married, Rachel individually obtained a $75,000 bank loan, secured by a mortgage on the property. The value of the property at that time was $245,000. Rachel used a portion of the new loan to pay off her remaining debt to her grandmother's estate. The estate was then distributed to her grandmother's heirs, Rachel's mother and uncle. Following that distribution, Rachel's mother gave Rachel approximately $30,000. Rachel used that money to add a two-car garage to the property.

[¶5] In 2011, Rachel deeded the property to Patrick and herself as joint tenants, and they obtained a $100,000 bank loan, again secured by a mortgage on the property. The value of the property at the time of the new mortgage was approximately $310,000. Using some of the proceeds from the new loan, Rachel and Patrick paid off the earlier loan and applied the rest of the money to improve the property. Over the years, the parties spent nearly $184,000 to make improvements. At the time of the divorce, they stipulated that the value of the home was the value determined in the 2011 appraisal--$310,000. There remained $95,000 to be paid on the mortgage.

[¶6] Patrick filed a complaint for divorce in July 2012, and the parties proceeded to mediation in September 2012. They resolved all of the issues regarding parental ...


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