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Chamberlain v. Harriman

Supreme Court of Maine

June 22, 2017

PATRICIA A. CHAMBERLAIN
v.
LINWOOD A. HARRIMAN

          Argued: November 8, 2016

          Joseph L. Ferris, Esq. (orally), and Mariann Z. Malay, Esq., Gross, Minsky & Mogul, P.A., Bangor, for appellant Linwood A. Harriman Jr.

          James G. Spaulding, Esq., and Joshua A. Tardy, Esq. (orally), Irwin Tardy & Morris, Newport, for appellee Patricia A. Chamberlain

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

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶1] Linwood A. Harriman appeals from two judgments of the District Court (Newport, Ende, J.). In the first, the court clarified that a divorce judgment, entered in 2004, required Harriman to pay $50, 000 plus post-judgment interest to Patricia A. Chamberlain as her share of the parties' marital property, and ordered that a writ of execution would issue. In the second, the court entered a "corrected order, " after a writ of execution had issued, clarifying an ambiguity created by its first judgment and directing that a new writ would issue in the amount of $50, 000 plus interest. We dismiss as untimely the appeal from the first judgment, which clarified the divorce judgment, and we affirm the second judgment, which clarified the terms on which the writ of execution would issue.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] We draw the facts from the trial court record and the court's findings reached on Chamberlain's post-judgment motion for contempt, which the court, without objection, treated as a motion to enforce. After twenty-two years of marriage, the parties were divorced in 2004. The parties' divorce judgment, entered by agreement, disposed of only one substantial piece of property-the parties' marital home.

         [¶3] Unfortunately, the documentation of the parties' obligations at that time, apparently crafted by the parties or their counsel, was so abstrusely drafted as to require later clarification. Specifically, the July 20, 2004, divorce judgment contained a provision that stated:

Plaintiff shall execute and deliver to Defendant a quitclaim deed with covenant for [the parties' marital residence] at the time the divorce shall become final. Concurrently, the Defendant shall mortgage said property to the Plaintiff in the amount of $50, 000.00 under the terms and condition of said mortgage.

         On the same date as the divorce judgment, Harriman executed a document titled "mortgage deed, " which provided:

The Mortgage [sic] or Linwood A. Harriman shall pay to the Mortgage [sic] Patricia A. Harriman the sum of $50, 000.00 ... on or before July 19, 2009. If the Mortgage [sic] has not paid said sum in full on or before said date then he shall pay to the Mortgage [sic] a mortgage of $50, 000.00 ... at the state [sic] of 5% . .. per annum over a period of 20 . .. years in equal monthly installments in the amount of $329.98 . . . the first payments being due and payable July 20, 2009 and on the 20th of each month thereafter until paid in full. Failure to make payments as specified herein is a condition of default.

         Harriman did not pay $50, 000, or any other sum, to Chamberlain by July 19, 2009. Nor has he made a single installment payment in the years that followed. [¶4] On March 2, 2015, Chamberlain moved for contempt on the ground that Harriman had failed to make payments according to the terms of the mortgage. On August 13, 2015, the court held a hearing during which Harriman testified and the divorce judgment and mortgage deed were admitted in evidence. Harriman admitted during his brief testimony that he had not made any payments to Chamberlain and that it was his understanding that he owed her $50, 000. The court and Chamberlain apparently agreed that Harriman was not in contempt, so the court stated that it would treat the motion "as a motion to enforce." Neither party objected to the treatment of the pending motion as a motion to enforce. Opposing the enforcement, Harriman argued that because he had executed the mortgage as ordered, he did not have any remaining obligations from the divorce judgment that could be enforced.

         [¶5] The court entered the clarifying judgment on September 21, 2015, denying Chamberlain's motion for contempt and enforcing the original judgment. Because the divorce ...


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