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Gomberg v. Gomberg

Supreme Court of Maine

October 20, 2015

BRUCE F.C. GOMBERG
v.
CRISTINA C. GOMBERG

Argued: September 16, 2015

Augusta District Court docket number FM-2010-327

On the briefs and at oral argument:

Ronald P. Lebel, Esq., Skelton Taintor & Abbott, Auburn, for appellant Bruce F.C. Gomberg

Diane Dusini, Esq., MittelAsen, LLC, Portland, for appellee Christina C. Gomberg

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

ALEXANDER, J.

[¶1] In this appeal we are called upon to review whether a substantial change of circumstances can be demonstrated, warranting a change in a spousal support order, when the original divorce judgment was entered by agreement, a subsequent modification of spousal support was entered by agreement, and the relevant financial circumstances, known at the time of the divorce and the subsequent agreed-upon modification order, have not changed in a material way.

[¶2] Bruce F.C. Gomberg appeals from an order of the District Court (Augusta, Dobson, J.) modifying a prior spousal support award. He contends, among other arguments, that the court abused its discretion when it modified the award because (1) it compared the financial circumstances of the parties to their circumstances at the time of the most recent spousal support order, rather than to their circumstances at the time of the original divorce judgment, and (2) it did not find a substantial change in circumstances based upon Bruce's income or Cristina C. Gomberg's employment status or earning capacity. We affirm.

I. CASE HISTORY

[¶3] The parties were divorced in March 2011 by a judgment of the court (Mullen, J.) that incorporated a settlement agreement. Based on that agreement, the court ordered Bruce to pay to Cristina $225, 000 annually in spousal support and $18, 000 annually in child support. The court also ordered-based on the parties' agreement-that Bruce's annual obligation for spousal support would increase to $243, 000 when his child support obligation ceased. There was no temporal limit to the spousal support award. The order did not include factual findings that can be important for a potential future review of a support award. See 19-A M.R.S. § 951-A(5) (2014).

[¶4] In December 2011, less than a year after it was entered, Bruce moved to modify the judgment, alleging that the minor child was living with him and that his income had decreased substantially. In June 2012, the court (Dobson, J.) approved another agreed-upon order, which incorporated a second settlement agreement by the parties. That order terminated the child support obligation and required Bruce to pay to Cristina a lump sum for overdue spousal support. In addition, the court's order modified the spousal support award by reducing Bruce's spousal support obligation to $169, 000 per year for two years, beginning on February 24, 2012. The order stated that, on February 24, 2014, "spousal support will return to the original amount set forth in the settlement agreement of [$243, 000 annually] unless either party files a motion to modify." Like the 2011 divorce judgment, the 2012 order that modified the judgment contained no factual findings.

[¶5] In April 2013, Bruce filed a second motion to modify, seeking to reduce or terminate his spousal support obligation. After a contested hearing on that motion, the court (Dobson, J.) found facts concerning both the 2011 judgment and the 2012 order modifying the judgment. With regard to the circumstances existing at the time of the agreed-upon divorce judgment, the court made the following findings:

(1)Bruce is an orthopedic surgeon, and the parties agreed to use $670, 000 as his gross income for purposes of ...

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