ERNEST P. NERI
Submitted on Briefs: May 25, 2017
E. Mellenthin, Esq., Lincolnville Center, for appellant
C. Peterson, Esq., West Rockport, for appellee Ernest P.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Kimberly Heilig appeals from a judgment of the District Court
(Rockland, Mathews, J.) divorcing her from Ernest P.
Neri, dividing their assets, ordering Neri to pay $2, 000
toward Heilig's attorney fees, and ordering him to pay
her spousal support for three years. On appeal, Heilig
contends that the court clearly erred by finding that real
estate purchased by Neri during the marriage is nonmarital
property, abused its discretion in calculating her spousal
support award, and abused its discretion by awarding her a
lesser amount of legal fees than she requested. We disagree
The court found the following facts, which are supported by
competent evidence in the record. See Blanchard v.
Blanchard, 2016 ME 140, ¶ 3, 148 A.3d 277. Heilig
and Neri were married on August 12, 2004. At the time of the
marriage, Heilig was a grant writer and consultant for
Columbia University, and Neri was a retired teacher. Neri
received a monthly pension and, in 2008, began to receive
social security payments. Each individually held retirement
accounts. After getting married, they moved to Honduras,
where they purchased two pieces of real estate and a tool
At some point, the relationship soured and they separated,
eventually relocating separately to Maine and selling the
Honduras properties and business. Once in Maine, they
partially reconciled. Neri purchased and sold a property on
Oyster River Road in Warren (the "Oyster River
Road" property), and then, in 2010, they purchased as
joint tenants a property on Crawford Road in Warren (the
"Crawford Road property"). They lived in separate
quarters at the Crawford Road property until 2014, when,
following a complete breakdown of the relationship, Neri
purchased and relocated to a multi-unit property in Thomaston
(the "Thomaston property").
Neri purchased the Thomaston property in his own name, using
money obtained from his individual retirement account through
his State of Connecticut deferred compensation fund, and by
obtaining a loan from Camden National Bank. He paid closing
costs using funds from his retirement account that he had
transferred to Damariscotta Bank & Trust.
Neri is 72 years old. Due to several medical conditions, he
has no earning capacity. His income is $74, 000 annually,
received solely from retirement and social security funds.
Heilig is 67 years old and is a mediator. Her annual income
is $35, 800.
Heilig filed for judicial separation in October 2014, and
Neri filed a complaint seeking divorce in December 2014.
Following a hearing in January 2015, the court [Worth,
J.) ordered Neri to pay Heilig $1, 000 per month in
interim spousal support, to be applied retroactively from
October 31, 2014; $2, 000 in interim attorney fees; and the
mortgage and homeowner's insurance payments on both the
Crawford Road property and the Thomaston property.
Mediations in May and December 2015, and a judicial
settlement conference on April 8, 2016, failed to resolve all
issues between Neri and Heilig. On May 4 and 5, 2016, a
contested divorce hearing was held. By order dated June 21,
2016, the court [Mathews, J.) consolidated
Heilig's judicial separation action with the divorce
action and granted the parties a divorce. The court divided
their real estate, personal and intangible property, and
debt; ordered Neri to pay Heilig spousal support in the
amount of $1, 000 per month for a period of thirty-six
months; ordered Heilig to pay Neri $33, 000 to equalize the
marital property and debt distribution; and ordered Neri to
pay $2, 000 toward Heilig's attorney fees, in addition to
the previously awarded attorney fees.
Heilig filed a motion for further findings of fact and
conclusions of law pursuant to M.R. Civ. P.
52(b). The court denied her motion in part and
granted it in part: it corrected its previous finding
concerning Neri's age, clarified its reasoning concerning
personal property values and the division of several items of
personal property, and amended the thirty-six-month spousal
support term so as to be ...