CATHERINE E. BROCHU
RICHARD A. MCLEOD
Argued: June 9, 2016
Lewis, Esq., Port City Legal, Portland, for appellant
Catherine E. Brochu
N. Gabor, Esq., Hallett, Zerillo & Whipple P.A.,
Portland, for appellee Richard A. McLeod
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR,
HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
Catherine E. Brochu, formally known as Catherine McLeod,
appeals from an order of the District Court (Portland,
Eggert, J.) granting, based on the affirmative
defense of laches, Richard A. McLeod's motion to dismiss
Brochu's motion to enforce nearly forty years'
overdue child and spousal support payments. On appeal, Brochu
contends that the court erred by  concluding that laches
is a viable defense in child or spousal support cases; 
finding that the elements of laches were satisfied; and 
interpreting the parties' settlement agreement to limit
the term of spousal support to eighteen months. We vacate the
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
court's judgment, the record supports the following
facts. Young v. Lagasse, 2016 ME 96, ¶ 4, __
A.3d __. Brochu and McLeod married on November 4, 1970. They
had two children, born in 1970 and 1972. On June 6, 1977,
Brochu and McLeod executed a separation agreement, which
provided that McLeod "shall pay to [Brochu], for her
support, the sum of $160 per month during the joint lives of
the parties, and so long as [Brochu] does not remarry or
cohabit for a maximum of eighteen months from the date of
this Agreement." Brochu did not remarry or cohabitate
during the eighteen months following the agreement. From the
date of the separation agreement in 1977 to present, McLeod
has never made a child or spousal support payment.
McLeod went into hiding in 1977, shortly after he and Brochu
had executed the separation agreement. At that time, McLeod
was in the United States Marine Corps. Brochu called his
military base in an attempt to locate him, but was advised
that McLeod was absent without leave. Brochu also consulted
some of McLeod's family members about his whereabouts,
but they too did not know where he had gone.
[¶4] On August 9, 1979, the court issued a divorce
judgment incorporating the settlement
agreement. Brochu remarried in October of that year
and legally changed her sons' surnames to match her new
husband's surname. Brochu completely stopped looking for
McLeod after the divorce in 1979.
In 1996, the United States Marine Corps instituted an action
against McLeod for his unauthorized absence dating back to
1977, and he was given a bad-conduct discharge as a result.
There is no indication that Brochu was aware of McLeod's
trial or whereabouts in 1996.
In 2014, the parties' son, then forty-two years old,
asked Brochu for information about his biological father.
Brochu conducted a Google search of McLeod's name and in
less than five minutes was able to find McLeod's address
On March 30, 2015, Brochu filed a motion to enforce the
nearly forty years' overdue child and spousal support
payments. McLeod filed a motion to dismiss on July 6, 2015,
asserting the affirmative defense of laches, among other
things. The District Court held a hearing on July
29, 2015, at which both Brochu and McLeod testified.
The following exchange occurred regarding Brochu's
efforts to locate McLeod over the years:
THE COURT: Let me cut to the chase. Were you able to learn
during the late 1970s and into the '80s while your
children were still living with you where [McLeod] was?
[BROCHU]: No, I had no idea where he was ...
THE COURT: And what efforts did you make after the divorce
was granted to find out where he was?
[BROCHU]: Well, after the divorce ... it just became ... a
non-issue. Again, at that time I still didn't know how to
go about finding him, even beginning to know where he could
THE COURT: So you were just willing to move along within life
knowing that you had your two kids and you were going to have
to provide for them?
[BROCHU]: That-I accepted that, yes.
[MCLEOD'S ATTORNEY]: So after the divorce was finalized
in 1979 to 2014, you in fact made no effort to locate
[McLeod]? [BROCHU]: No, I didn't.
also explained that she thought she lost any right to pursue
child support once both of her children had attained the age
of majority in 1990. After locating McLeod in 2014, however,
she soon consulted an attorney and instituted this action
McLeod's testimony at the hearing was limited. McLeod
contended that he never paid child or spousal support because
Brochu had left him and he was unable to find her or their
children. McLeod also testified that the only time he looked
for their children was in the 1970s. McLeod offered no
information as to his assets or income; whether he would have
done anything differently had he known ...