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Amero v. Amero

Supreme Court of Maine

October 13, 2016

MARK A. AMERO
v.
MARIA C. AMERO

          Argued: September 13, 2016

         Reporter of Decisions

         On the briefs and at oral argument:

          James P. Howaniec, Esq., Lewiston, for appellant Maria C. Amero

          David M. Sanders, Esq., Sanders & Hanstein, P.A., Farmington, for appellee Mark A. Amero

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

          MEAD, J.

         [¶1] Maria C. Amero appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Farmington, Dow, J.) terminating a prior spousal support award based on its finding that Maria was cohabiting with an adult partner, which triggered termination of the support pursuant to the parties divorce judgment. Maria contends that there was insufficient evidence supporting the courts finding of cohabitation. We find no error and affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Mark and Maria divorced in 2006 after over thirty years of marriage. The court (McElwee, J.) entered a divorce judgment in September 2006 that ordered Mark to pay Maria general spousal support in the amount of $1, 100 per month. The award was subject to certain conditions, including that it "shall terminate upon . . . [Maria]s remarriage or cohabitation with an adult partner."[1]

         [¶3] In April 2015, Mark filed a motion to modify the spousal support award, alleging that Maria was cohabiting with an adult partner, thereby triggering termination of the support award pursuant to the terms of the parties divorce judgment. Mark amended his motion to modify in September 2015, reiterating his assertion that Maria was cohabiting with an adult partner and citing an impending change in his financial circumstances due to his upcoming retirement. The court held a testimonial hearing in November 2015 at which Mark and Maria were the only witnesses.

         [¶4] The trial court issued an order in November 2015 finding "by a preponderance of the evidence [that Maria] has cohabitated with an adult partner . . . since some time in 2010, " but it did not elaborate on the basis for this finding. Because the court determined that Maria was cohabiting with an adult partner, it ordered termination of the spousal support award pursuant to the divorce judgment. The court declined to analyze the alternative question of whether a substantial change in circumstances warranted modification because it deemed the finding of cohabitation a sufficient basis on which to terminate support.

         [¶5] Neither party moved for further findings of fact pursuant to Rule 52(b) of the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure. Maria timely appealed, challenging the courts ...


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