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Bell v. Bell
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT				Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	1997 ME 154
Docket:	Aro-97-17
Submitted
on Briefs:	June 26, 1997
Decided:	July 18, 1997

Panel:  WATHEN, C.J., and ROBERTS, GLASSMAN, RUDMAN, and LIPEZ, JJ.  

CONSTANCE BELL v. GREGORY BELL

GLASSMAN, J.
  
	[¶1]  Gregory Bell appeals from the judgment entered in the Superior
Court (Aroostook County, Pierson, J.) affirming the judgment entered in the
District Court (Caribou, Daigle, J.) granting a divorce to Constance Bell and
Gregory Bell on the ground of irreconcilable marital differences.  We affirm
the judgment.  
	[¶2] When, as here, the Superior Court acts in the capacity of an
appellate court, we review directly the record before the District Court to
determine whether there is any error of law that affects the validity of the
court's judgment.    Page v. Page, 671 A.2d 956, 957 (Me. 1996).  Because
our review of the record discloses that, contrary to Gregory's contentions,
the trial court acted within its discretion in the allocation of the parties'
marital property and the award of alimony to Constance and that the record
is devoid of any evidence to support Gregory's contention that the court
considered marital fault leading to the breakdown of the marriage in
reaching its determinations, it is unnecessary to detail further those
determinations or the evidence supporting them.  
	[¶3] For the sole purpose, however, of again affirming our previous
articulation of those principles governing the respective responsibilities of
the court and of the parties, we address Gregory's contention that the trial
court erred by refusing to make its own further findings of fact and
conclusions of law in response to his motion pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 52. 
Gregory does not contend, nor on this record can he, that the judgment of
divorce fails to set forth precise findings of fact based on the evidence
adduced at the trial or the rationale for its decision.  Rather, he argues that
it was incumbent on the trial court, in response to his timely motion, to
issue further findings of fact and conclusions of law without having the
parties submit specific proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law
based on those proposed findings.  Our review of this record discloses the
lack of merit in Gregory's contention.  
	[¶4] Pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 52(a), the trial court "shall, upon the
request of a party made as a motion . . . find the facts specially . . . ."
However, "[i]f an opinion or memorandum of decision is filed, it will be
sufficient if the findings of fact and conclusion of law appear therein." M.R.
Civ. P. 52(b) provides that "[t]he court may, upon motion of a party . . . after
notice of findings made by the court, amend its findings or make additional
findings . . . ." We have repeatedly stated that "[t]he primary function of Rule
52 findings is to present a clear statement of the basis for the trial court's
judgment to an Appellate Court." Hatch v. Hatch, 596 A.2d 1006, 1007 (Me.
1991) (quoting Conger v. Conger, 304 A.2d 426, 429 (Me. 1973)).  We also
have repeatedly stressed the importance that a motion pursuant to Rule 52
state with specificity the findings of fact and conclusions of law requested. 
See, e.g., Powell v. Powell, 645 A.2d 622, 623-24 (Me. 1994) (we assume
trial court found all facts necessary to support decision in absence of motion
for specific findings).  This requirement not only obviates the necessity of an
appellate court assuming that the trial court found all facts necessary to
support its decision, Williams v. Ubaldo, 670 A.2d 913, 916 (Me. 1996), but
reinforces "[t]he strong policy of the rule to avoid burdensome paper work"
being placed on the trial court.  Murray v. Murray, 529 A.2d 1366, 1368
(Me. 1987) (quoting 1 Field, McKusick & Wroth, Maine Civil Practice §§
52.1, 52.2 at 684, 685 (2d ed. 1970)).  
	[¶5] The record reflects that within the time limit prescribed by Rule
52, Gregory moved for findings of fact and conclusions of law.  The motion
reads in full:

NOW COMES the defendant, Gregory E. Bell, by counsel and
moves for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of law with respect
to a decision of the District Court dated April 27, 1995 in the
above-captioned matter.  

WHEREFORE, the Defendant prays that the Court shall make
Findings of Fact and state separately its Conclusions of Law with
respect to said decision and file copies of the same with all
parties.  

In response to the motion, the trial court requested proposed findings from
the parties.  Constance responded with detailed findings of fact and
conclusions of law.  Gregory filed a memorandum stating his refusal to file
proposed findings because the parties had previously submitted position
statements and "[a]s such, counsel for the parties have served as advocates
of their client's respective positions" and that it was incumbent on the trial
court, pursuant to Rule 52, to make further findings on a request of a party
without the party having to submit proposed findings.  Thereafter, the trial
court issued its order stating, inter alia, that it had reviewed the five-page
divorce judgment and concluded it specifically set forth the factual findings
and legal conclusions justifying the judgment and denied Gregory's motion
for further findings of fact and conclusions of law.  
	[¶6] When, as here, the findings of fact and conclusions of law
contained within the judgment of divorce inform the parties of the
reasoning underlying the trial court's conclusions and allows effective
appellate review, it is incumbent on the party to set forth specifically any
further findings of fact or conclusions of law the party is by motion, pursuant
to Rule 52, requesting of the court.  To require less of a moving party is to
unnecessarily burden the trial court and obstruct the purpose of the trial
process to reach an expeditious and fair resolution of the dispute presented
to the court.  The record in this case clearly supports our conclusion that
the trial court properly exercised its discretion by denying Gregory's motion
for further findings of fact and conclusions of law.  
	The entry is:
						Judgment affirmed. 
                     
Attorney for plaintiff: E. Allen Hunter, Esq. Solman & Hunter, P.A. P O Box 665 Caribou, ME 04736 Attorney for defendant: Richard L. Currier, Esq. Currier & Trask, P.A. 505 Maine Street Presque Isle, ME 04769-2393