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McLeod v. Macul

Supreme Court of Maine

May 26, 2016

DANIEL J. MCLEOD
v.
LOUISE M. MACUL

          Argued: February 9, 2016

         Ellsworth District Court docket number FM-2011-52

         On the briefs and at oral argument:

          Daniel A. Pileggi, Esq., Roy, Beardsley, Williams & Granger, LLC, Ellsworth, for appellant Louise M. Macul

          Martha J. Harris, Esq., Paine, Lynch & Harris, P.A., Bangor, for appellee Daniel J. McLeod

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

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] Louise M. Macul appeals from a judgment entered in the District Court (Ellsworth, Romei, J.) granting Daniel J. McLeod's motion to modify and amending the parties' original divorce judgment by terminating the spousal support awarded to Macul. Macul contends that the court erred and abused its discretion because it (1) concluded that a severance payment made to McLeod was irrelevant to the determination of his gross income; (2) considered impermissible factors in its determination of whether there was a substantial change in circumstances; (3) failed to consider other relevant statutory factors in arriving at a modified award; and (4) retroactively terminated McLeod's support obligation. We vacate the amended judgment and remand for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] After twenty-six years of marriage, Daniel McLeod, who resides in Shanghai, China, and Louise Macul, who resides in Kuching, Malaysia, were divorced by a judgment (Nivison, J.) entered on August 8, 2012. The parties had been legally separated since 2006. In consideration of an unequal division of the parties' property, Macul was awarded $5, 000 per month in general spousal support "for a term of one hundred twenty (120) months, which term may not be extended." At the time of the divorce, McLeod listed his total income as $376, 728, and Macul listed her income as $7, 698, composed entirely of investment income. Then, as now, Macul did not have any income from employment.

         [¶3] In 2014, less than two years later, McLeod filed a motion to modify the spousal support award, alleging a substantial change in circumstances because his employment was going to be terminated at the end of June 2014 as a result of corporate restructuring. See Ellis v. Ellis, 2008 ME 191, ¶ 11, 962 A.2d 328; 19-A M.R.S. § 951-A(4) (2015).

         [¶4] On December 8, 2014, the court (Romei, J.) held a hearing on McLeod's motion to modify. Following the hearing, the court entered an amended divorce judgment on February 13, 2015, finding a substantial change of circumstances and granting McLeod's motion to modify. In particular, the court found that McLeod's job, which had compensated him in the amount of $366, 916 at the time of the divorce and provided insurance and a pension plan, ended June 30, 2014; concluded that his one-time severance package from that employment was not "income from an ongoing source, " see 19-A M.R.S. § 2001(5)(A) (2015); and found that McLeod acquired new employment three months after his termination but at a forty percent reduction in pay with no benefits.

         [¶5] As to Macul, the court found that she "has done nothing to become self-supporting. She has significant job skills, but has made no effort to become gainfully employed." Because Macul had been employed in hospital administration and also had training as an English language teacher, the court found, "[s]he could earn $30, 000 to $50, 000 if she tried. She has applied for no jobs since 2012. Nor did she from the parties' separation in [2006]."[1] The court ordered a complete termination of spousal support, retroactive to July 1, 2014. Macul timely appealed.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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