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Harshman v. Harshman

Supreme Court of Maine

April 4, 2017

EDWARD J. HARSHMAN
v.
SHEILA C. HARSHMAN

          Argued: March 3, 2017

          Rockland District Court docket number FM-2015-113

          Stephen T. Hayes, Esq. (orally), Hayes Law Offices, Augusta, for appellant Edward J. Harshman

          Sarah Irving Gilbert, Esq. (orally), Elliott MacLean Gilbert & Coursey, LLP, Camden, for appellee Shiela C. Harshman

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

          GORMAN, J.

         [¶1] Edward J. Harshman appeals from a divorce judgment entered in the District Court (Rockland, Sparaco, J.) on his complaint against Sheila C. Harshman. Edward challenges the courts exclusion of evidence at trial as well as its calculation of the parties respective incomes for child support and spousal support purposes. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The court made the following findings, which are supported by competent record evidence. Edward and Sheila were married in 2000. They have two minor children.

         [¶3] Edward has been a licensed physician since 1999. He has never been board-certified and has no admitting privileges to any hospitals, but has maintained his own medical practice for most of his career. While the divorce was pending, Edward closed his medical practice, moved to Augusta, and began working as an independent contractor performing health screenings. He works two five-day weeks per month, but is physically able to work full-time as a practicing physician.

         [¶4] Edward has earned between $0 and $78, 375 annually through his employment as a physician. Although Edward states that he expects to earn $44, 000 per year in the coming years, Department of Labor statistics estimate the average annual income for general medical practitioners in the Augusta area at $186, 240. Edward was voluntarily underemployed throughout the marriage, and on a continuing basis, because "he has not needed to [work] given the substantial income that he receives from family trusts." He has long received $6, 000 to $9, 000 per month or more in trust distributions; Edward received more than $100, 000 from the trusts in 2014 and again in 2015. Although Edward does not have a right to demand distributions, his sister is the trustee, and every time he has requested a distribution, she has provided it. Edward and the family have relied on the trust distributions throughout the marriage.

          [¶5] The court found that Edward "has been deliberately attempting to keep his income low and his expenses high during the pendency of the divorce" and has "engaged in a concerted effort to manipulate and/or mislead [Sheila] as to the resources and income available to him, " and that Edward and his sister have colluded to artificially "adjust[]" the appearance of Edwards income stream to avoid spousal support. In 2015, the year that Edward filed the divorce complaint, Edward did not request trust funds. Edward also attempted to characterize the trust distributions as repayments on a loan he made to the trust, a representation not supported by his tax returns, financial statements, or logic. Edwards trust income has not decreased and is unlikely to do so, but if it did decrease, Edward could earn more money through employment. The court calculated Edwards income to be $170, 000 per year.

         [¶6] With Edwards agreement, Sheila has historically provided and continues to provide full-time homeschooling for the parties children, and therefore remains unavailable to work outside the home. Sheila has no income other than the $5, 700 per year generated by the rental of her nonmarital property on Nantucket.

          [¶7] Edward instituted divorce proceedings against Sheila on June 18, 2015. See 19-A M.R.S. ยง 901 ...


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