Michael and Stephanie lived
together for 13 years without getting married, but after then had a child
together they tied the knot. Seven years later they got a divorce.
The Trial Court divided marital
property and awarded $60k in transitional
spousal support to Stephanie to pay
for medical expenses, as well as ongoing spousal support. Both Michael and Stephanie appealed.
Michael argued that transitional
spousal support cannot be awarded for
Stephanie argued that the
Court valued their home too low, and excluded Michael's retirement
account, and a $30k joint bank account from marital property. She also wanted her attorney's fees paid.
The Maine Supreme Court
The Maine Supreme Court
noted that under Maine law, transitional spousal support is usually given for short-term financial
needs and for rehabilitation into the workforce. However, the Statute
has a clause saying "but not limited to...," so they Court can
award transitional spousal support for any need they deem appropriate.
The Court also found that
$60k was a reasonable amount given the circumstances, and there is no
specific upper bound that can be awarded.
The Court found that their
estimation of the value of the house was reasonable.
The Court found that
Michael's retirement account was all from money he had earned prior to
their marriage, so it was 100% his because it was separate property, not marital property.
Note that Stephanie was
living with Michael during those years. She might have been able to get
the money if she could show that they had a common-law marriage during that time because then the money would
be considered marital property.
However, there is a
presumption that the most recent marriage is valid. If they had been
common-law married, they would not have needed to get a marriage
license. Since they did, there is a presumption that they didn't
consider themselves common-law married.
The Court found that while
the $30k had been briefly held in a joint account, the money was
understood to be an inheritance from Michael's mother. While it was in
the account it was never accessed by Stephanie and she had made no claim
All money held in joint
accounts is presumed to be marital property, but that is a rebuttable presumption, and in this case,
Michael had enough evidence to rebut the presumption that it was jointly-owned
In general, inheritance is
considered separate property and
is not included in combined marital assets.
Separate property can be transmuted into marital property if it is placed in a joint account, unless
there is evidence to show that it was never intended to become marital
The Court found that the
distribution of marital property
and the non-payment of attorney's fees were reasonable and within the
discretion of the court to determine.
The Court partially based
their $60k award on the fact that Stephanie would have to pay her own