DECISION, JUDGMENT & DECREE
complaint and counterclaim in this matter was the subject of
a three-day bench trial presented during the July 2018 civil
trial term. During the trial, the Court heard testimony from
each of the parties, as well as from numerous additional
witnesses. Subsequent to the trial, counsel for both parties
filed written closing arguments and reply briefs for the
Court's further consideration.
outset, the Court would note its' considerable concern
regarding the credibility of the testimony of each of the
parties in this case. Nonetheless, based upon the evidence
presented, the Court makes the following factual findings.
parties have been engaged in a long-term relationship over
the course of several years, but were never married. They are
the parents of four children who were born to them during the
course of that relationship, As of the time of trial, three
of the four children had become adults.
the course of their time together, specifically in 1998, the
parties acquired a parcel of real property located at 236 Mud
Creek Road in Lamoine, Maine. The 28 acre parcel includes a
residential building, a stable, pastureland and a riding
arena which was built by the parties in 2005. An appraisal of
the parties' property determined that the highest and
best use of the property was its continued use as a property
that supports the operation of a horse boarding and rider
Fall of 2004, the parties formed a limited liability company,
Iron Slipper Farm, LLC, The Court finds that the Plaintiff
held 51% ownership and the Defendant held 49% ownership in
the LLC. Prior to August 2011, both parties performed
significant functions associated with the operations at the
property which helped to produce income for the parties. The
Plaintiff provided riding instruction for customers and
boarding care for the horses at the stable and arena. The
Defendant performed various maintenance activities, provided
some assistance with horse feeding, and was primarily
responsible for the haying operations on the property.
Iron Slipper Farm, LLC was formally established in 2004, the
Court was provided with little evidence as to that
entity's assets, income production, value or formal
functioning especially since the time of the parties physical
separation from one another in 2011, No tax returns have been
filed for Iron Slipper Farm, LLC since 2011. Nor did the
evidence from either party suggest that any of the assets
described during the trial were assets owned by the limited
liability company. The Court finds that the entity has ceased
functioning and has no assets or liabilities requiring
further division or consideration by the Court. To the extent
additional formalities are required to formally terminate or
dissolve the limited liability company, the parties are
hereby ordered to execute any such necessary documentation.
long period of time prior to the summer of 2011, the
parties' relationship had deteriorated to the point where
there were frequent and often heated arguments. In the summer
of 2011, the plaintiff filed a complaint for protection from
abuse in the Ellsworth District Court. (PA-11-206). On August
24, 2011 the District Court issued an order, by agreement of
the parties and without a formal finding of
"abuse". (Plaintiffs Exhibit 6). That Order, in
part, granted the plaintiff possession of the parties'
real estate at 236 Mud Creek Rd. The plaintiff has continued
to have possession of the same property since that time
through the time of trial.
the income from the horse-related operations at the
parties' property significantly declined after August
2011, the Court does not find that the Plaintiff
intentionally attempted to devalue the property or minimize
the income from the business operations on the property.
After August 2011, the Defendant was not assisting, either
through labor or financial contributions, in the business
operations, and thus it is not surprising that there would be
a decline in income. Moreover, the Court finds that it was
reasonable for the Plaintiff to seek additional jobs, apart
from the horse-related operations, in an attempt to
supplement her income during this post 2011 period.
time after August 2011 has the Plaintiff made any payment to
the Defendant reflecting any revenue from the horse-related
business operations on their property. At no time since
August 2011 has the Defendant made any payment either to the
Plaintiff or directly to the creditors for any mortgage or
other expense relating to the horse-related business
operations on the property. Since August 2011, the Plaintiff
has made all of the mortgage payments relating to the two
mortgages encumbering the parties' property at 236 Mud
on the testimony of Todd Christiansen, the representative
from the mortgagee, Machias Savings Bank, the loan payments
were current as of the time of trial. Moreover, Mr.
Christiansen testified that the Plaintiff, the party with
whom he had worked exclusively over the last six years,
appeared to be a good customer and one his company would be
able to work with in an attempt to refinance the property.
there was a significant amount of testimony and other
evidence regarding various financial aspects of the cost
associated with building an arena on the property, operating
a horse boarding business, the income one might anticipate
from such an operation, and finally the estimated value of a
speculative subdivision of the parties' property, the
Court was presented with very little evidence of the current
fair market value of the parties' real property. A formal
appraisal of the property (Plaintiff's Exhibit 13.1 and
hereinafter referred to as "the Moore Appraisal")
was completed as of April 3, 2012, but never updated by
either party. The Moore Appraisal determined the value of the
parties' property to be $384, 000 as of April 3, 2012.
The Moore Appraisal noted that the tax assessed value of the
property at the time was $353, 200. Based upon the Moore
Appraisal, and the description of the improvements that have
been made to the residential building since the time of that
earlier appraisal, the Court finds that the current fair
market value of the property with its existing improvements
is $400, 000.
about the time of the parties' separation in September
2011 the outstanding balance on the loans encumbering the
parties' property was $291, 752.05. Based upon an
estimate of the fair market value of the property at or about
that time in the amount of $384, 000, the parties had ...