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Bonner v. Emerson

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

December 4, 2014

PATRICIA E. BONNER
v.
JEFF D. EMERSON

Argued: November 6, 2014.

Judgment vacated. Remanded to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

On the briefs: David S. Abramson, Esq., and Jonathan M. Dunitz, Esq., Verrill Dana, LLP, for appellant Jeff D. Emerson.

Ronald P. Lebel, Esq., Skelton, Taintor & Abbott, Auburn, for appellee Patricia E. Bonner.

At oral argument: Jonathan M. Dunitz, Esq., for appellant Jeff D. Emerson.

Ronald P. Lebel, Esq., for appellee Patricia E. Bonner.

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

OPINION

Page 1024

GORMAN, J.

[¶1] Jeff D. Emerson appeals from a judgment of the District Court (West Bath, J.D. Kennedy, J.) denying Patricia E. Bonner's motions to enforce their divorce judgment and amending, sua sponte, the parties' 2013 divorce judgment. Emerson argues that the court was without authority to amend the divorce judgment. Bonner cross-appeals, also challenging the court's authority to amend the divorce judgment. We vacate and remand for reconsideration.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶2] Bonner and Emerson were married on November 30, 1985. In 2011, Bonner instituted divorce proceedings and, after a protracted period of litigation, the parties engaged in a judicial settlement conference with Judge Kennedy on November 30, 2012. At the conclusion of that conference, the parties informed the court that they had reached a settlement, and placed the agreement on the record. During the next four months, the parties attempted to draft a complete divorce judgment that reflected their agreement, but were unable to do so. Nonetheless, with the agreement of the parties, Judge Kennedy issued a judgment on March 29, 2013, that he referred to in a separate order as " a partial final judgment divorcing the parties and resolving all non-disputed issues . . . reserving [a] disputed issue for future decision." As will be discussed below, the bifurcation of the judgment and the reservation of the disputed issue have created complications for the parties and for us.

[¶3] Paragraph 10 of the judgment dated March 29, 2013, states:

This Judgment provides that certain specified accounts in the name of either party shall be equally divided. Said division shall be accomplished by an equal division between the parties of each asset held in said account as of the date of this Judgment, to the extent that such division is feasible, so that both parties shall receive a comparable composition of assets and a comparable basis therein. To the extent that the dollar values in any Raymond James account required to be divided herein ...

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