John C. Sheldon


Interpreted literally, Maine's Marital Property Act (MPA) excludes all wedding gifts from the marital estates of divorcing spouses. Wedding gifts received before a wedding are nonmarital because they were not received during the marriage. Wedding gifts received after a wedding are nonmarital because they were gifts, which appear to be expressly excluded from the marital estate by the statute's definition of marital property. In short, a literal reading of the MPA prevents Maine's divorce courts from exercising any discretion in the distribution of what must, by any measure of common sense, be quintessential examples of marital property. This curious state of affairs is the product of inadequate draftsmanship of § 307 of the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA), of which §722-A(1) of the MPA is virtually the verbatim derivative. While those deficiencies have drawn plenty of fire from within and without Maine, it is not the purpose of this article to add to that literature. Instead, this article treats the MPA as a fait accompli: The Legislature chose to adopt it years ago, and has scarcely changed any of its principal provisions since, so it is probably here to stay. The challenge, then, is not to criticize it but to work with it: to advance its apparent objectives without stumbling over its many idiosyncrasies. This article attempts to resolve the problem of one of those idiosyncrasies.

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