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Violette v. Violette

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

July 30, 2015


Argued May 12, 2015.

Page 668

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 669

The portion of the judgment that orders the parties to discipline their children is vacated. In all other respects, the judgment is affirmed.

On the briefs and at oral argument: Elizabeth J. Scheffee, Esq., Givertz, Scheffee & Lavoie, PA, Portland, for appellant Christine V. Violette.

Kenneth P. Altshuler, Esq., Childs, Rundlett, Fifield & Altshuler, LLC, Portland, for appellee Randy R. Violette.



Page 670


[¶1] Christine V. Violette appeals from a judgment of divorce entered in the District Court (Waterville, Dow, J. ). Christine contends that the court (1) clearly erred in its calculation of Randy R. Violette's income; (2) abused its discretion in its spousal support award; (3) clearly erred in finding that two assets, a piece of real estate and a business, were nonmarital; and (4) violated her fundamental right to parent her children when it ordered the parties to discipline their children in a specific fashion upon the occurrence of particular events. We vacate the portion of the judgment that mandates specific disciplinary measures and affirm in all other respects.


[¶2] Christine and Randy were married on October 2, 1993, in Lewiston. They have three children together: a seventeen-year-old son, a thirteen-year-old son, and a ten-year-old daughter. Christine filed a complaint for divorce on November 9, 2012. At the final hearing on December 12, 2013, the court heard evidence of the following facts relevant to this appeal.

[¶3] Separately or together, the parties own a total of six parcels of real estate. All but one are encumbered by various debts. Only one parcel, located in Sidney, is at issue on appeal. Prior to the parties' marriage, Randy purchased the parcel in Sidney and built a building there, which he rents to his own business, Power Equipment Plus. Subsequent to the parties' marriage, a storage building was added to the Sidney parcel. The parties did not dispute that the property currently has a value of $313,900, is encumbered by debts of $106,725 and $869, and has a net value of $206,306. Christine offered and the court accepted a table that states that on October 30, 2012, the Sidney property had two debts: " $130,000 as of [February 18, 1993]" and " $55,000 SBA mort" dated June 6, 1998. Randy testified that the debts on the property are for nonpayment of taxes and one or more loans. Christine did not testify or otherwise offer evidence explaining the notations in her table regarding the debts.

[¶4] Power Equipment Plus is a Subchapter S Corporation, incorporated before the marriage, and Randy owns 100 percent of the shares. During their marriage, Randy and Christine worked together at the business. Each drew salaries from the corporation. Randy testified that the current value of Power Equipment Plus is " no value," and he introduced evidence that the business's debts outweigh its assets and that the company was taking a loss in recent years. Christine testified that, at an unspecified time (" when the market wasn't as good" ), the couple began using their home equity line of credit to support the business, first testifying that the loan was used " strictly" for the business and then testifying that " half" of it was used for the business. Power Equipment Plus, in turn, made payments on the home equity loan. However, Christine did not testify to or offer evidence regarding the alleged business practices or intermingling of personal and business funds that would allow the court to make findings regarding specific monetary amounts involved.

Page 671

Christine also testified that the business takes in more money than the books reflect, but she offered no specific amounts or methodology that would allow the court to impute additional income to the business.

[¶5] During the marriage, Randy borrowed over $200,000 from his parents. One loan--for $100,000--was used to pay off a debt that was incurred by Randy prior to the marriage as part of the Power Equipment Plus start-up process. The remainder of the loan proceeds was used to support the family's lifestyle.

[¶6] Neither party offered an expert witness on the complex financial issues at stake in the dissolution of their marriage.[1]

[¶7] Randy testified and produced evidence that his income is approximately $50,000 per year based on his salary at Power Equipment Plus and some rental income he makes from the Sidney property and others. Christine testified that Randy makes more than $50,000 per year because he makes some unreported income through his business. She also asked the court to consider an earlier case management order ...

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