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Durkin v. Durkin

Supreme Court of Maine

March 5, 2019

DONALD G. DURKIN
v.
JOYCE L. DURKIN

          Submitted On Briefs: January 17, 2019

          Dana E. Prescott, Esq., Prescott Jamieson Murphy Law Group, LLC, Saco, for appellant Joyce L. Durkin

          Benjamin P. Campo, Jr., Esq., Douglas McDaniel & Campo LLC PA, Westbrook, for appellee Donald G. Durkin

          PANEL: ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, AND HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Joyce L. Durkin appeals from a judgment of divorce from Donald G. Durkin entered on Donald's complaint by the District Court (Biddeford, Foster, J.) and the court's denial of her motion for amended or clarified findings and for reconsideration. Joyce asserts that the trial court erred by concluding that it lacked the authority to award spousal support from nonmarital assets and by declining to award nominal spousal support. Although the court does have the authority to consider a spouse's nonmarital assets in determining the appropriateness of spousal support and does have the authority to secure any such spousal support through a lien on nonmarital real property, the court's judgment is unclear as to whether the court believed it had such authority. We vacate and remand.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Donald filed a complaint for divorce in March 2016. The court held a contested hearing in January 2018 and entered a judgment of divorce on April 10, 2018. The following facts are from the court's explicit findings, all of which are supported by competent evidence in the record. See Douglas v. Douglas, 2012 ME 67, ¶ 26, 43 A.3d 965.

         [¶3] Donald and Joyce Durkin were married in August 1980. At the time, Donald was self-employed as a building contractor. In 1985, Donald constructed a two-family home in Buxton on property owned by his parents for him, Joyce, and his parents to reside in. Donald personally provided almost all of the labor. Donald also constructed a beauty salon attached to the home to be operated by Joyce, who had recently graduated from cosmetology school.

         [¶4] In 1991, Joyce gave birth to the parties' son. Following the son's birth, Joyce began to work less at her beauty salon, which resulted in the business being less profitable. Later, in 2003, Donald's parents deeded him the Buxton property solely in his name. Donald and Joyce jointly acquired a small adjacent parcel of land for $10, 000, funded through a home equity line of credit of $75, 000 that was secured by the Buxton property Donald had received from his parents. Donald and Joyce used the remainder of the line of credit to pay off various debts. At the time of the divorce, Donald and Joyce owed $75, 000 on the line of credit.

         [¶5] Due to multiple physical disabilities, Donald closed his contracting business in 2015 and began working as a driver for local car dealerships. For a period of time, Joyce worked in various other part-time positions until she suffered a serious accident.

         [¶6] Based on these findings, the court set aside the Buxton property to Donald as his nonmarital property. The court also awarded Donald the adjacent parcel of land, finding that it had no value independent of the larger property. Further, at Donald's request, the court ordered that he was responsible for almost all of the parties' joint debt.

         [¶7] Joyce requested that the court enter a lump sum spousal support order secured by Donald's nonmarital property. The court denied this request, stating:

What skews the picture in this matter is the award of the residence to Mr. Durkin. The equity in that property is substantial- $320, 000. On its face, the argument by Mrs. Durkin's counsel that the equity in the property presents an opportunity for a lump sum payment of alimony seems fair and feasible. But it overlooks one crucial fact-the property is [nonmarital]. The [c]ourt cannot force a sale ...

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