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Monahan v. Monahan

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

May 14, 2015

JOHN J. MONAHAN JR.
v.
JUDITH B. MONAHAN

Submitted on Briefs April 23, 2015

Section 8 of the divorce judgment shall be amended as indicated in this opinion. As amended, the divorce judgment is affirmed.

On the briefs: Paul A. Weeks, Esq., Paul Weeks Attorney, PA, Bangor, for appellant John J. Monahan Jr.

Stephen C. Smith, Esq., Lipman & Katz, PA, Augusta, for appellee Judith Monahan.

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

OPINION

ALEXANDER, J.

[¶1] John J. Monahan Jr. appeals from a divorce judgment entered in the District Court (Ellsworth, Mallonee, J. ) providing for equal division of marital property and awarding spousal support to Judith B. Monahan. John contends that the court erred in making the spousal support award non-modifiable. He also argues that the court erred or abused its discretion in

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various respects in the marital property division. We direct that the judgment be amended to remove the prohibition on later modification of the spousal support award and affirm the judgment as amended.

I. CASE HISTORY

[¶2] John and Judith were married in 1976. John worked for the Maine Central Railroad and Guilford Transportation Company from 1969 to 2008. Since his retirement, John receives railroad retirement benefits pursuant to the Federal Railroad Retirement Act of 1974, 45 U.S.C.S. § § 231-231v (LexisNexis 1992 & supp. 2014). He currently receives a monthly net payment of $3,372.02 after deductions for taxes and Medicare premiums, the sum of which is broken down into " Tier 1" and " Tier 2" benefits. Judith also receives monthly railroad retirement benefits as a spouse. See 45 U.S.C.S. § 231c. Her net payment, including Tier 1 and Tier 2 benefits, is $1,752.67 per month.

[¶3] The parties separated in March 2011, and John filed a complaint for divorce in July 2011. After a final divorce hearing held in January 2014, the court entered a memorandum of decision in which it made several factual findings, including a finding that the thirty-five-year duration of the marriage overrode " all other factors that might have marginally tipped the balance" in favor of one party or another. With regard to John's railroad retirement benefits, the court noted that, because the parties failed to provide any actuarial or computational data establishing the current value of the benefits, it could not assess the parties' proposals regarding possible trade-offs in the property division.[1]

[¶4] The court entered an initial divorce judgment on May 7, 2014. Section 8 of the judgment awarded Judith monthly spousal support, equal to " one-half of the difference between [John's] retirement benefits and the benefits [Judith] is to receive, exclusive of the benefits [John] accrued before the marriage." The judgment provided that the spousal support would be general support terminable upon the death of either party, and that the spousal support award " may not be modified." The judgment and an accompanying qualified domestic relations order also awarded Judith an interest in John's " non-Tier 1" railroad retirement benefits pursuant to 45 U.S.C.S. § 231m, based on a calculation contained in the order.

[¶5] John timely moved to amend the judgment pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 59(e), seeking modifiable spousal support so that the award would conform with the court's preliminary memorandum of decision, which did not state that spousal support would be non-modifiable. In an amended divorce judgment entered on July 31, 2014, the court declined to make the spousal support modifiable. Judith timely appealed pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 1901 (2014) and M.R. App. P. 2, and John cross-appealed. Judith then moved to ...


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