Link v. Link, 030719 MDSCA, 2144-2017

Docket Nº:2144-2017
Opinion Judge:Berger, J.
Party Name:MICHAEL E. LINK v. CHRISTINA LINK
Judge Panel:Berger, Leahy, Battaglia, Lynne A. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Case Date:March 07, 2019
Court:Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
 
FREE EXCERPT

MICHAEL E. LINK

v.

CHRISTINA LINK

No. 2144-2017

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

March 7, 2019

Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County Case No. 17-C-12-017040

Berger, Leahy, Battaglia, Lynne A. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION [*]

Berger, J.

This case arises out of a divorce proceeding in the Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County between appellant, Michael Link ("Michael"), and appellee, Christina Link ("Christina").1 Following a trial, the court entered a judgment of absolute divorce and ordered Michael to pay Christina alimony, child support, and $318 per month as contribution towards a home improvement loan. After Michael failed to make the monthly contribution payments, the court held Michael in contempt and ordered him to pay $318 a month for thirty-six months to purge the contempt.

Approximately one year later, Christina filed a second petition for contempt alleging that Michael breached the previous contempt order. After holding a hearing, the court found that Michael was in contempt, and consequently, ordered Michael to pay $318 for thirty-six months to purge the contempt. The court further ordered Michael to pay $12, 813.01 within sixty days. This amount accounted for unpaid interest, late fees, court costs, and attorney's fees that had accrued on the home improvement loan as a result of Michael's failure to pay.

On appeal, Michael raises three questions, which we consolidate and rephrase as follows2:

1. Whether the circuit court erred in ordering Michael to pay $318 per month for thirty-six months to purge his contempt.

2. Whether the circuit court erred in ordering Michael to pay $12, 813.01 within sixty days.

For the reasons explained herein, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Michael and Christina were married in July 2001. During their marriage, the couple took out a loan to make improvements on their home.3 Thereafter, Michael and Christina separated, and in January 2013, obtained an absolute divorce. In the divorce order, the Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County ordered Michael to pay Christina $100 a month in alimony, $1, 403 a month in child support, and $318 a month as contribution towards the home improvement loan.

In January 2016, Christina filed a petition for contempt alleging that Michael failed to make his $318 monthly contribution payments. On May 3, 2016, the Magistrate held a hearing. At the hearing, Michael opposed Christina's petition, arguing that he did not have the financial resources to make the $318 monthly payments. The Magistrate disagreed and ultimately recommended that Michael be held in contempt. On May 31, 2016, the circuit court approved the Magistrate's recommendation, holding Michael in contempt and ordering him to purge his contempt by making the $318 monthly payments for thirty-six months. Michael did not file any exceptions or file a timely appeal.

On May 11, 2017, Christina filed another petition for contempt. In this petition, Christina alleged that Michael failed to comply with the circuit court's May 31, 2016 order because Michael did not make any of the $318 monthly contribution payments. Christina further argued that the home improvement loan accrued $12, 813.01 in interest, late fees, costs, and attorney's fees as a result of Michael's failure to make the monthly payments. On July 20, 2017, the Magistrate held a show cause hearing.

At the hearing, Michael testified that he could not afford to make the contribution payments in addition to child support and alimony. In support of his testimony, Michael produced three pay stubs and a self-prepared spreadsheet listing his expenses. Michael further testified that he paid $50 every month towards the loan. After hearing from both Michael and Christina, the Magistrate issued her oral recommendation. The Magistrate stated: "Magistrate recommends finding of contempt. [Michael] to pay $12, 813.01 within 60 days or reduced to judgment. [Michael] to resume to pay $318.00 on 9/1/17 and continue for 36 months."

On July 28, 2017, Michael filed exceptions to the Magistrate's recommendations. Thereafter, on October 19, 2017, Michael filed supplemental exceptions. Michael asserted that he did not have the financial wherewithal to pay more than $50 each month towards the loan. Michael further argued that he should not have to pay the accrued costs associated with the home improvement loan because the loan was personal to Christina.

On December 20, 2017, the circuit court approved the Magistrate's recommendations. In a memorandum opinion, the circuit court ruled as follows: The Magistrate went through the merits of Defendant's financial resources. She did not find credible -- nor does the Court find credible -- Defendant's claim of having given two checks to [Christina] of $200.00 and $150.00 respectively purportedly paying her a reduced payment of $50/month. [Michael] was employed earning approximately $39, 000/year in 2016 for Del-Mar-Va Council, Inc., and a base salary of approximately $30, 000/year in 2017 for Atlantic Broadband.

The Magistrate recommended that Defendant be adjudicated in contempt for failing to pay $318/monthly to [Christina] as a contribution towards the home improvement loan in accordance with the 1/31/13 judgment and 5/31/16 order; that, as a purge provision, [Michael] was directed to pay the monthly contribution amount, less any agreed credits, commencing 9/1/17, over a period of 36 months; that the interest, late fees, attorney's fees, and court costs related to the non-payment of the loan of $12, 813.01 be reduced to judgment if not paid within 60 days; and that [Michael] sign over the Mazda Van to [Christina] with net proceeds to be paid per the parties' agreement. The findings of fact and...

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