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Harper v. Harper

Supreme Court of Maine

August 1, 2017

TIMOTHY W. HARPER
v.
SHERYL E. HARPER

          Submitted on Briefs: June 29, 2017

          Susan Schultz McEvoy, Esq., Portland, for appellant Timothy W. Harper

          Kristin A. Gustafson, Esq., Gustafson Family Law, Augusta, for appellee Sheryl E. Harper

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

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Timothy W. Harper appeals from a judgment entered in the Business and Consumer Docket [Horton, J.) partially denying his motion to reconsider and amend a previously-entered divorce judgment distributing his and Sheryl E. Harper's assets. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts are derived from the court's final amended divorce judgment and are supported by evidence in the record. See Berntsen v. Berntsen, 2017 ME 111, ¶ 2, ___ A.3d ___. Timothy and Sheryl were married in New York in 1978. During their approximately thirty-seven-year marriage, the couple amassed considerable assets and managed several businesses. The operation of two of those businesses is of particular importance for the purposes of this appeal.[1]

         A. Northeastern Seafood, Inc.

         [¶3] Northeastern Seafood, Inc. (NES) is a commercial lobster business operating from a wharf in Southwest Harbor. NES purchases lobsters from fishermen and resells the lobsters to either commercial or individual buyers. Sheryl was NES's original proprietor, starting the business in 1986 and developing it into a successful enterprise over time.

         [¶4] Beginning sometime between 1997 and 2005, Timothy began managing NES, while Sheryl assumed a less active role. After taking over operation of NES, Timothy instituted a number of changes, including implementing a separate and additional bookkeeping system and removing the credit card processing infrastructure. Timothy removed the credit card systems for the purpose of retaining cash that NES received for retail lobster sales without recording it as corporate income. He also decided to sell lobsters to only two commercial buyers, thereby significantly decreasing NES's profits. While in control of NES, Timothy opened and drew down upon two lines of credit that, at the time of the divorce proceeding, carried a total balance of approximately $350, 000. This was in stark contrast to Sheryl's management of the company; when she gave up control of the business, NES operated with limited debt and substantial cash reserves.

         B. The Dictator, Inc.

         [¶5] The Dictator, Inc. (Dictator) is a corporation of which Timothy is the sole shareholder. It is a profitable business that owns a scallop boat and associated fishing permits, which have a collective value of approximately $4, 500, 000. Between 2012 and 2015, Timothy engaged in a series of transactions using Dictator operating accounts that were not related to the business, including purchasing automobiles and recreational ...


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