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Blanchard v. Blanchard

Supreme Court of Maine

September 6, 2016

SHARON BLANCHARD
v.
RONALD BLANCHARD

          Argued: May 3, 2016

          John P. Simpson, Esq., Simpson Law Offices, Cumberland Foreside, for appellant Sharon Blanchard

          Robert A. Levine, Esq., Portland, for appellee Ronald Blanchard

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

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶1] Sharon Blanchard appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Moskowitz, J.) finding that a valid premarital agreement had been executed by the parties before their marriage and entering a judgment of divorce. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] On June 22, 1986, four days after executing a premarital agreement, Sharon and Ronald Blanchard were married. The parties had two children, both of whom are now adults. Twenty-six years after the marriage, in December 2012, Sharon filed for divorce. Ronald responded, asserting that the parties had entered into a valid premarital agreement that governed the equitable distribution of property and the award of spousal support. Highly contentious proceedings continued for over two and a half years before a final hearing was held. During this time, prejudgment orders requiring Ronald to pay interim spousal support were entered. Ronald paid some of the ordered interim spousal support but did not fully comply with the orders.

         [¶3] On August 24, 2015, the court held a bifurcated trial on (1) the validity of the premarital agreement and (2) the divorce complaint. After trial, the court found the following facts, which are supported by competent evidence in the record. Prior to their marriage in 1986, Sharon and Ronald requested that an attorney draft a premarital agreement in exchange for consideration. That attorney had previously represented Ronald in other contexts, and he made it clear to Sharon that he was representing Ronald only. At the time, Sharon and Ronald had been living together for about four years and were expecting a child.

         [¶4] The attorney provided a financial disclosure form to each of the parties and requested that they provide full and complete information about their financial circumstances. The parties provided completed forms to the attorney, and the attorney began drafting a premarital agreement. The parties were then furnished with a copy of the proposed agreement.

         [¶5] Approximately six weeks after a draft of the agreement was provided to the parties, before the final agreement was executed, the attorney asked Sharon if she had consulted with independent counsel regarding the terms of the proposed agreement. She stated that she had done so. She also confirmed that the final agreement contained certain revisions to the original draft that she had specifically requested.

         [¶6] During the first part of the trial regarding the validity of the premarital agreement, the parties testified that at the time they signed the premarital agreement, Ronalds net worth was substantially larger than Sharons, but Sharon was self-sufficient and supported herself. The court entered in evidence the premarital agreement signed by the parties.

         [¶7] That agreement, executed on June 18, 1986, was written before the enactment of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, 19-A M.R.S. §§ 601-611 (2015), and it does not have the clarity of more recently drafted instruments. It states that Ronald desires to make provision for Sharon "in release of and in full satisfaction of all rights" which Sharon might have "by reason of the marriage, in the property which Ronald F. Blanchard now has or may hereafter acquire." It further states that Sharon desires to accept the provision "in lieu of all rights which she would otherwise acquire, by reason of the marriage, in the property ... of Ronald F. Blanchard." In the event of divorce after a marriage lasting more than five years, the premarital agreement provides the following.[1] Ronald will repay Sharon "the principal amount of $2, 100 plus 12% interest thereon computed from May 1, 1984, " which represents money that Sharon loaned to Ronald. In addition, temporary spousal support "shall be paid" to Sharon. Furnishings are to be divided equally and each party is to keep his/her personal effects. Sharon has the right to select any automobile owned by the parties, but if it is subject to debt, Sharon alone will be responsible for the debt.

         [¶8] The agreement also states,

Sharon Elaine Turgeon acknowledges that the present approximate net worth of Ronald F. Blanchard has been fully disclosed to her and she understands that such net worth is in excess of $750, 000, that she has given consideration to this fact and others, and that she has had the advice of independent accounting counsel and independent legal counsel, and that having had such independent counsel, ...

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