EDWARD J. HARSH MAN
SHEILA C. HARSHMAN
Argued: December 11, 2018
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Edward J. Harshman appeals from post-judgment orders entered
in the District Court (Rockland) finding him in contempt.
Harshman, the beneficiary of a substantial trust, had been
ordered to maintain $500, 000 in life insurance to benefit
his ex-wife and their children, to whom he was required to
pay significant spousal and child support. Not only did he
fail to obtain the $500, 000 policy, he allowed a $300, 000
policy to lapse, claiming that when the court told him it was
not enough, he was no longer required to maintain that
policy; a claim that defies logic. We affirm the judgment of
contempt. We remand to the District Court for enforcement of
the contempt order, and for the sanction of imprisonment
imposed therein to be served immediately.
The District Court entered two orders of contempt and
repeatedly provided Harshman with more time to comply. Those
orders, dated December 7, 2017 [Mathews, J.), and
May 15, 2018 [Raimondi, /.), found him in contempt
of the parties' divorce judgment after he failed to
obtain a $500, 000 life insurance policy that would name his
former wife, Sheila Harshman, as the owner and beneficiary,
and acted in bad faith in allowing his existing $300, 000
term life insurance policy, which he owned but that listed
Sheila as the beneficiary, to lapse. See M.R. Civ.
P. 66(d). Edward challenges the court's findings of facts
that he had the ability to comply with the divorce judgment
and that his cancellation of his existing policy was in bad
Edward and Sheila were married in 2000 and divorced in
September 2016 through a judgment [Sparaco, J.)
ordering, in pertinent part, as follows:
[Edward] shall furnish a life insurance policy naming
[Sheila] as beneficiary, and owned by [Sheila], in an amount
no less than $500, 000.
... [T]he Court finds it prudent to have [Sheila] be the
owner of this life insurance policy, but require [Edward] to
pay any and all premiums associated therewith and to
cooperate to the extent necessary to obtain physicals or
Almost a year after Harshman was ordered to obtain the $500,
000 life insurance policy, in August 2017, Sheila filed a
motion for contempt asserting that Edward had failed to
obtain the policy. See M.R. Civ. P. 66(d)(2)(A).
Edward did not assert a financial inability to pay for the
ordered policy, but alleged that although he had obtained a
life insurance policy of $300, 000, "considering his age
and health" he was uninsurable for a policy above that
amount. He provided no evidence that he made any actual
efforts to obtain a policy or that any insurers declined any
actual applications for policies. The court
[Mathews, /.) held a contempt hearing and found
that, although Edward had the ability to comply with the
divorce judgment, he "refused to do so." The court
also found that Edward's existing policy of $300, 000 was
not compliant with the divorce judgment because it was $200,
000 less the amount required by the divorce judgment and it
was not owned by Sheila. Accordingly, the court adjudged that
Edward was in contempt of the divorce judgment. M.R. Civ. P.
66(d)(2)(D). The court imposed a sanction of a thirty-day
term of imprisonment, but the court stayed the sanction
indefinitely to allow Edward the opportunity to comply with
the divorce judgment. See M.R. Civ. P. 66(d)(3)(A)
(Remedial Sanctions; Coercive Imprisonment).
In March 2018, Sheila filed a motion for the court to hold a
hearing where Edward would be required to show cause for not
complying with the divorce judgment. She included an
affidavit averring that he had "affirmatively cancelled]
the existing (but insufficient) life insurance policy"
of $300, 000. The court [Raimondi, J.) held the show
cause hearing that Sheila had requested and found that Edward
had inquired into only whether "he could get a whole
life insurance policy and only for the full amount of
$500, 000." (Emphasis added.) As it pertains to his
$300, 000 term plan, Edward "never inquired whether
ownership of the $300, 000 [term life] policy could be
transferred to [Sheila]." Nor did he make
"inquiries as to whether he could get an additional
policy for $200, 000 or perhaps two $100, 000 policies so
that he could comply with the order." Ultimately, the
court found, "the deliberate end result of his actions
was to leave [Sheila] with no insurance coverage at
Once again, however, the court stayed the imposition of the
contempt sentence. The court allowed Edward thirty days to
comply with the divorce judgment, potentially by reinstating
the $300, 000 policy, with or without Sheila as the owner,
and obtaining other, smaller policies that would provide a
total of $500, 000 in coverage. The court also required
Edward to investigate any other avenue to secure his spousal
support obligation, "including family trust funds,"
"in the event that it proves difficult to obtain
insurance." The court set the matter "for review on
June 12, 2018, ... at which time [Edward] must have obtained
insurance coverage as ordered or have persuasive proof of his
good faith efforts to do so or the sentence of the court will
be imposed at that time."
At the June review hearing, the court found that Edward had
"failed to comply with [the May 15, 2018, ] order."
The court imposed a sanction and ordered Edward to serve a
term of thirty days in the Knox County Jail and denied
Edward's motion to stay the imposition of the sanction.
See M.R. Civ. P. 62(a), 121. Nonetheless, it is
apparent that Edward has not served the sentence,
he now appeals to us, arguing that the court erred in its
factual finding of his ability to comply with the life
insurance provision of the divorce judgment and that, because
the court earlier found his term policy inadequate to satisfy
the divorce judgment, the court erred in determining that he
acted in bad faith in cancelling the policy. See
M.R. App. P. 2B(c)(1).
We review the court's factual findings that support a
decision "regarding civil contempt for clear
error." Lewin v. Skehan,2012 ME 31, ¶ 18,
39 A.3d 58. Absent clear error in the court's underlying
factual findings of contempt, we review the court's
judgment for an ...