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McBride v. Worth

Supreme Court of Maine

April 19, 2018

ANNE M. MCBRIDE
v.
JEFFREY R. WORTH

          Submitted On Briefs: February 26, 2018

          Anne M. McBride, appellant pro se

          Patrick S. Bedard, Esq., Bedard & Bobrow, P.C., Eliot, for appellee Jeffrey A. Worth

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

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] Anne M. McBride appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Springvale, Foster, J.) entered in June 2017. The court granted McBride's motion to enforce Jeffrey R. Worth's spousal support obligation pursuant to the parties' 2009 divorce judgment after determining that Worth was in arrears in the amount of $11, 055.25; granted Worth's motion to enforce McBride's obligation to refinance the marital home; and granted Worth's motion for division of omitted property. McBride contends that the court (1) abused its discretion when it issued an income withholding order instead of ordering immediate payment of the entire amount of Worth's spousal support arrears; (2) erred when it ordered McBride to attempt to refinance her home every six months; and (3) abused its discretion when it declined to award McBride all of the attorney fees she requested. Because the judgment misstated Worth's ongoing spousal support obligation and we are uncertain of the court's intent regarding the amount to be withheld from Worth's earnings to enforce his spousal support and arrears obligations, we must vacate the income withholding order, partially vacate the judgment, and remand to the trial court for clarification. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] "Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the court's judgment, the record supports the following facts." Brochu v. McLeod, 2016 ME 146, ¶ 2, 148 A.3d 1220. After nineteen years of marriage, McBride and Worth were divorced in 2009. Relevant to this appeal, the divorce judgment ordered Worth to pay McBride $150 every week for spousal support until McBride reaches age sixty-five or remarries and awarded the marital residence to McBride and ordered her to "refinance the property as soon as the mortgage market improves and she is financially capable of doing so."

         [¶3] As the court found, "The parties have been in court frequently since the entry of the [divorce] Judgment, almost exclusively on the issue of spousal support."[1] On September 6, 2016, McBride filed another motion to enforce Worth's spousal support obligation, alleging that Worth was $13, 032.97 in arrears and requesting that Worth pay the arrears "in full or go to jail" and that he pay her costs. Twenty-three days later, Worth filed a motion to enforce the divorce judgment requirement that McBride refinance the note and mortgage of the marital home and a motion for division of omitted property.[2]

         [¶4] On May 25, 2017, the court held a hearing on the motions. In an order dated June 26, 2017, the court found that Worth had a continuing obligation to pay McBride $150 for spousal support every week; that, based on the parties' stipulation, he failed to comply with that obligation, resulting "in arrears as of May 25, 2017 in the amount of $11, 055.25"; and that Worth could afford to pay his spousal support obligation but chose to spend his discretionary income elsewhere. The court entered judgment for McBride in the amount of $11, 055.25, with post-judgment interest to accrue.

         [¶5] To ensure payment of Worth's ongoing spousal support and arrears obligations, the judgment described a new income withholding order to accompany the judgment that would "continue[] in effect the payment of $150 per pay period (every two weeks) for ongoing spousal support, and add[] $150 per pay period toward the established arrearage." The income withholding order required the withholding of "the sum of $300 per pay period, that is every two weeks That amount is comprised of [Worth's] current spousal support obligation ($150 per week or $300 every two weeks), together with an additional sum ($150 per week or $300 per pay period), to be applied toward the arrearage of spousal support owed by [Worth], that is $11, 055.25 as of May 25, 2017."

         [¶6] The court also found that McBride did "not have the capability to secure refinancing despite her good faith efforts to do so." However, the court directed McBride to attempt to refinance the mortgage on her residence by applying for refinancing at least once every six months, "[a]ssuming that [Worth] continues to make regular spousal support payments, thereby ensuring [McBride] can document a regular stream of income."

         [¶7] On requests from both parties for attorney fees, the court found that the fees were substantial for each party and out of proportion to the issues presented. The court ordered Worth to pay $5, 000 of McBride's attorney fees.

         [¶8] McBride filed this timely appeal. See 14 M.R.S. ยง 1901 (2017); M.R. ...


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